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2020 LAFC player postmortem: Brian Rodriguez

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The enigmatic DP became even more so.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

2020 was supposed to be the year Brian Rodriguez broke out for LAFC. Did that happen? To an extent, but overall, not really.

The Uruguayan had to wait until the summer, roughly a year after signing for LAFC, to score his first goal, but while we all hoped that would open the floodgates at club level for him, even on a free-scoring team like LAFC, it didn’t. He scored a few goals but didn’t become a consistent option.

Rodriguez did, however, break through to an extent as an assist man, with his six helpers in league play putting him in the top 10 in MLS last season. And while his game does not scream playmaker, he did very quietly help pull some strings for the black-and-gold.

Here are Rodriguez’s stats in 2020:

Brian Rodriguez 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 19 18 1,446 2 7 49 18 0 0
MiB Knockouts 2 2 180 1 0 1 1 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
CCL 4 2 177 0 0 5 0 0 0
Total 25 22 1,803 3 7 55 19 0 0

To give some reinforcement to Rodriguez’s unexpected assist blossoming in 2020, take a look at his advanced stats, per FBref.com. Rodriguez’s defense was substantially worse than other players in his position in MLS last year, but his general passing numbers were also generally poor. It seems when he did pass successfully, he managed to hit assists, sort of a feast-or-famine situation.

The flipside of this table is yes, while his goal numbers were not elite, his other attacking metrics were extremely good, so the portrait of Rodriguez as a Designated Player who just can’t get anything right is overstated.

Still, there’s no question that Rodriguez lacked the easy flow like some of his star teammates, and there was evident frustration on both sides at times last year. I thought it was notable that Rodriguez ended up being a bit-part player in the run to the Concacaf Champions League final. Whether that was because he was still getting back to his best after suffering from COVID or Bob Bradley chose to go with other options is unclear, but I remembered at the time how Rodriguez had been pushed to the side in the biggest games of LAFC’s history to date.

Perhaps adding to that sense, within a few weeks Rodriguez was pressing to leave LAFC, eventually telling a Uruguayan radio program that he refused to return to Los Angeles. By the end of the January transfer window, he got his wish, to an extent, with a loan move to Spanish second-division side Almería.

Obviously, Rodriguez’s stated refusal to play for LAFC gave the club little leverage and the loan move was not an ideal option for anyone but kind of trying to make lemonade of it all. There’s a chance that Almería will purchase Rodriguez’s contract permanently, which is probably what LAFC wants anyway, if they can make a profit and move on then mission accomplished. But with Almería’s promotion to La Liga not yet assured, as they sit in 3rd place, and Rodriguez starting just three of his eight appearances so far, with one assist and no goals, I can’t say I feel especially confident Almería will snap him up in the summer.

And so there’s a chance that Rodriguez will have to return to LAFC, unless he goes on strike again, which I suppose is possible. It’s also possible he returns to LAFC and is a little more mature, seeing that playing time may be better than intermittent playing time, and biding his time. We’ll see.

Rodriguez’s uncertain status means he’ll remain a specter in LAFC’s plans until the summer, and then we’ll see what happens. Again, given his decent but not spectacular play, if LAFC manage to sell him for a profit I have to think they’ll take it. I think they’ll also bring him back into the fold if he doesn’t throw another tantrum and there’s no buyer at the ready. And so the third DP slot will just kind of sit there, until we figure out if Rodriguez has played his last game for LAFC already, or if he’s got more action ahead of him in 2021.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.