Latif Blessing is ready for the 2021 season.
The LAFC utilityman is coming off a season where he was a fixture in the lineup once again, but the heights his career hit in 2019, when he went from being a forward/winger off the bench to a dominant two-way midfielder, weren’t quite there.
Blessing was moved all over the field in 2020, out of necessity, starting games in midfield, right back and even occasionally on the forward line, his original position. He was also frequently moved around during games, with injuries and international absences wreaking havoc on LAFC’s lineup quite a few times throughout the season.
There was also the curious transfer rumor surrounding Blessing last season, as he was linked to Brazilian club Vasco da Gama in October, amid reports the player was isolated from his spouse and wanted an exit in order to be reunited.
Nobody specifically referenced that transfer pursuit on Saturday, but some implications from the player and head coach Bob Bradley alike seemed to indicate there was some credence to them. But everyone is on the same page now, for LAFC.
“Things changed for me, last year, I had a little bit of a thing between me and my family. But I set it up, so now, this year I’m going to do [my] best,” Blessing told reporters after Saturday’s 3-3 preseason draw against the New England Revolution. “So when I come back from the offseason, I said to myself, ‘I can keep going’ you know? Last year, I didn’t do [my] best, this year I have to do [my] best. So I think this year I’m ready.”
When asked about which players have stood out in a positive way this preseason, Bradley specifically cited Blessing.
“Amongst guys that have been a big part of the team in the past, I would say that I think it’s been a good preseason for Latif. Latif, like a lot of players, was up-and-down last year and I didn’t think his focus was always where it needed to be. But I think he’s had a good preseason and I think he had a very good game today.”
While having a utility player is always useful for a team and Blessing looks set to remain in that role in 2021, he will likely get more of a chance to settle in to his regular position now, as a midfielder.
But Blessing’s personal goal for 2021? Help out LAFC’s vaunted attack.
“I said to myself, this year I need to score more goals. I think it’s going to come. When I start scoring goals, it keeps coming and coming.”
And if Blessing is back to his best, perhaps that will be a great sign for LAFC’s title hopes come season’s end.
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