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LAFC 2020 player postmortem: Mark-Anthony Kaye

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In some respects, it was an exceptional year for the Canadian.

Vancouver Whitecaps v Los Angeles FC Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Mark-Anthony Kaye returned for his third season with LAFC in 2020, and in many respects, he became a key figure off the field.

But let’s start with the on-field happenings first. Once again, Kaye was pretty much ever-present in the lineup for LAFC in 2020, aside from missing almost seven full games in a row at the end of the regular season after suffering an ankle sprain.

I think there’s a perception that Kaye gets hurt a lot but it’s worth noting that aside from his broken ankle in 2018, which kept him out roughly a third of the season (which, yeah, it’s a bad injury) he’s been more reliable than you might think. He had the sprained ankle in 2020 and a muscle injury in 2019 but he has been pretty consistent in terms of availability overall.

In addition, Kaye scored three goals in 16 MLS games in 2020. While he’s had moments in his MLS tenure when he lets fly with an ill-advised shot that goes through the uprights, or gets the ball in a pressure-packed moment and doesn’t get it in the net, he did improve when he was on frame in 2020. In all, he had four shots on goal in regular season play, and scored three of them, which is excellent, and substantially better than his rates in those categories the previous two years.

He’s also developing into the hard man on the field over time, the one to jump into the fray if things are popping off or if a teammate needs someone to stand up for them. It’s a quality that is often underappreciated, but LAFC struggled at the beginning in dealing with a feisty opponent, and I think very quietly, Kaye has blossomed into the player who won’t take crap from the other side, and it’s a trait that could be a key ingredient for the club in the future.

Here are Kaye’s stats in 2020:

Mark-Anthony Kaye 2020 LAFC Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 16 15 1,095 3 4 13 4 1 1
MiB Knockouts 2 2 145 0 0 3 0 0 0
Playoffs 1 1 90 0 0 1 0 0 0
CCL 5 5 432 0 1 4 2 1 0
Total 24 23 1,712 3 5 21 6 2 1

Now I don’t typically talk about players off the field in these season reviews, but Kaye’s advocacy was a vital part of his 2020 story. He became a key leader among Black players in MLS, both through the Black Players for Change coalition which formed in 2020 in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, seeking tangible initiatives to combat racial oppression, and as a person who was not afraid to speak his mind as a Black man living in the United States. His passion, frustration and fury came through in Twitter dispatches during the protests for racial justice and equality across the country in the summer, and he was the de facto spokesperson for LAFC when they opted to strike for their road game against Real Salt Lake, a night in which most MLS games and several other sports went quiet at the players’ demand.

That strike had enormous reverberations in MLS in the end, with RSL’s owner shooting himself in the foot in response to the strike, the likes of Kaye and Bob Bradley joining a chorus around MLS saying the owner needed to go, and within days, he was indeed forced to sell the club. Kaye didn’t cause the downfall of Dell Loy Hansen, Hansen caused his own downfall, but Kaye’s willingness to publicly condemn the RSL team owner was a risk, but one that led to positive change for the league.

So Kaye was a busy guy in 2020, trying to be at his best, in a pandemic, with games coming thick and fast, while racial and political movements happening in our society were inspiring and tragic in alternating episodes. I found there were a few days I could barely work, and I didn’t have to play high-level pro sports on TV in an unprecedented atmosphere. The physical, mental, and emotional toll all athletes endured in 2020, especially Black athletes, should not go unnoticed, and I think Kaye’s advocacy helped foreground the issues we must all continue to grapple with.

On the field, it was another good season for Kaye, truly. Off the field, it was an exceptional campaign. LAFC are lucky to have him on the squad for multiple reasons, and I think expectations are sky-high again for him, for good reason. Let’s hope 2021 is even better, in all aspects.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.