Kim Moon-hwan had a breakout performance for LAFC on Wednesday.
The right back got his first start for the club, and was effective both in that position and in more of a right wingback role in LAFC’s 2-0 win over FC Dallas at The Banc.
Big things were expected of Kim when he signed in the offseason, considering he’s a South Korean international, but with Tristan Blackmon a normally steady presence at right back, it was unclear when Kim would get his chance.
While he’s shown some good moments off the bench, he was a revelation on Wednesday, fully displaying an ability to dribble past defenders on the flank and become a link-up option in LAFC’s attack.
Kim was fresh off international duty, and head coach Bob Bradley admitted that even with the arduous travel of going back to South Korea and then flying back to LA for the international window, it was beneficial for jumpstarting his form.
“Yes, in this case I think it did help,” said Bradley told reporters postgame. “So I think it was 74 minutes and then 61 minutes [in his international appearances]. But [they were] starts and I think when he came back he had confidence and then was ready to start to push himself with the group here.”
Kim was happy to get the start in MLS play, but is trying to balance the positives and what he needs to work on moving forward.
“I got the opportunity to play and start my first match for LAFC. It’s something I take great pleasure and great honor in,” Kim told reporters during media availability on Friday through an interpreter. “There’s definitely some positives but there’s some things I need to improve on as well. During training, it’s something I constantly need to work on, to better adapt to the team, to think about the positions I’m going to be in, as a defender, and also to be able to understand what it is the team wants from me by adding my own skills and assets, so that I can help the team.
“I think it’s been around seven months since I ran a full 90 minutes. I’m really happy to be able to get back out there and be able to digest the fullness. But with that comes recovery. We have a short turnaround time before our next game. The starting lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but nevertheless, I’m looking forward to recovery, looking forward to a lot more opportunities to come and play, and definitely having more opportunities to get more clean sheets as a defender,” he added.
There seems to be a mutual appreciation society building within the squad between Kim and captain Carlos Vela. The pair had a knack for playing good balls to each other against Dallas, and Vela was pleased with Kim’s performance.
“I think he played really, really well,” said Vela after the game. “We expect a lot from him because he has experience, he has a good level, is a really good player so he has to show [it] every time he’s on the field. But from today for sure we will see a better Moon, we expect much from him so I was really happy to play with him and win. We are getting good chemistry so for sure, we will get better and better every, every single game so I’m happy to have him in a good level.”
For his part, Kim was very complimentary of Vela, not least because the Mexican star has appeared to go out of his way to make the newcomer feel welcome.
“Before we get into him as a footballer, I would like to say as a person, he’s extremely welcoming, extremely nice and he’s a very good leader of the team,” said Kim. “I’ve benefitted from that. He’s been someone that’s been very helpful to me, he’s given me good advice, especially as someone who also came from a different league, speaking a different language. He’s given me a lot of help.
“As a player, it goes without saying, he’s a world class player, a fantastic footballer and it just so happens that we line up on the same side. During training he’s been giving me a lot of advice and it’s something I look forward to, because he’s such a great player and I have so much to learn from him,” he continued.
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