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LAFC 2021 season preview

Can black-and-gold fulfill their promise?

LAFC suit up for their fourth season in 2021, and with nearly all of their starters returning, there’s a growing sense that this could, or maybe should, be the year they win a big trophy, perhaps more.

LAFC (2020 record: 9W-8L-5D, 7th in Western Conference; lost in opening round of playoffs to Seattle Sounders)

Head coach: Bob Bradley

Key additions: Jesus David Murillo (permanent acquisition), Kim Moon-hwan, Corey Baird, Marco Farfan

Key losses: Brian Rodriguez (at least until summer)

Projected Best XI (4-3-3): GK - Vermeer/Sisniega; Blackmon, Murillo, Segura, Palacios; Blessing, Atuesta, Kaye; Vela, Baird, Rossi

Best offseason move: Signing Murillo on a permanent deal was definitely the best move. After arriving in October the center back was the Walker Zimmerman replacement and helped lead them to the Concacaf Champions League final in December. The Colombian’s aerial abilities and leadership provided an instant boost, and one wonders if he had been around for all of the 2020 season, how much better LAFC would have been.

Reasons to be worried about LAFC: There has to be the feeling that this is likely the last chance for this core of players to win trophies. Carlos Vela isn’t old, exactly, but his contract doesn’t last forever. Diego Rossi will be sold abroad at some point and Eduard Atuesta could potentially be out the door in a matter of weeks. LAFC have both managed to build some actual depth this offseason and got a taste of real time missing each of those stars last year, but after three strong years to start their history, there is the expectation that they must win this year. Anything less will be a disappointment.

On that note, aside from the specter of injuries derailing their season like in 2020, the biggest concern coming into the season has to be in goal. Bob Bradley used a timeshare in 2020 with the veteran Kenneth Vermeer and the younger Pablo Sisniega. It’s possible this year he’s picks one of those players as the No. 1, but it wouldn’t be shocking if the timeshare continues. If it does, does that mean one or both of the ‘keepers are making big mistakes that cost the team? Quite possibly, and that will be a major concern for an otherwise dominant team.

Why LAFC are worth watching: Put simply, they are the most exciting team to watch in MLS, period. If you’re a neutral, you’ll love the goalfests that LAFC get into frequently. They not only score a ton themselves, but two of the last three seasons have also conceded bucketloads. You know how every coach who has an introductory press conference says, “We want to play exciting, attacking, front-foot soccer”? That’s what this team does. It can be nervy for fans, but it’s also fun to root for a team that can score four goals, no problem, on a regular basis.

Beyond the goals galore and the high-octane style, LAFC have a growing group of young and young-ish talent from around the world that is showing just how successful the club’s scouting network has been thus far. Yes, they’ve struggled to get the 3rd Designated Player right, and their current one, Brian Rodriguez, may or may not return from his current loan to the Spanish second flight, but when the first choice XI is available they are a ton of fun to watch and they are rightly considered title contenders in 2021.