Players being traded, or cut, is nothing new within sports. Typically, a move is made, goodbyes are said, thank you posts hit social media, and both sides move on. However, there are some instances that leave a lingering feeling. Moves that when made, leave you pondering the potential that there may be more there.
Now, full fairness, when a team isn't performing well the search for reasons why tend to veer off from reality. As winning covers a lot of cracks, so too does losing expose them. While not many were particularly shocked by LAFC’s decision to move on from Mark-Anthony Kaye, the circumstances surrounding it speak to a more concerning trend possibly occurring within the team.
Of course, one disgruntled departure isn't particularly newsworthy, these things happen in sports. What caught my attention was how eerily similar this situation felt. Which takes us back to former goalkeeper Tyler Miller. Much like Kaye, his LAFC career began brilliantly, but a Gold Cup call-up for the USMNT in the summer of 2019 derailed his form, and unfortunately, his mindset. In an interview shortly after his move to Minnesota United, Miller expressed just how down he was. “When I came back from the National Team, I really struggled with confidence.... I felt in a dark place I couldn't break out of.”
The other revelation, when he spoke on his mindset going into games with LAFC, “I was doing my best to beak out of this funk, but it felt like every weekend if I made a mistake I’d be in my head: ‘Am I going to play the next game? Will I recover from this?” These are what made my ears perk up, though again, on the heels of a record-breaking 2019 season, didn't give it much thought at the time. Oddly enough, Miller played his first two matches upon his return, a 3-1 win over Houston Dynamo, and a 3-2 loss against rival LA Galaxy. Oddly still, after his one-game hiatus, the next time he would be “benched” was after a 3-3 result against, the Galaxy. When the season ended, so too did Miller’s career with LAFC.
Fast forward to Kaye, and many are focused on his, “I believe that I needed to be compensated more, and they felt like that’s not what they wanted to do” line from his recent interview after his trade last week to the Colorado Rapids. What struck for me, was his candor on his role, saying “LAFC had plans to do certain things with other players, and I felt it wasn't necessarily fair considering all I gave to them...There were only two options, either LAFC find a solution within themselves, or move me on.”
He isn't wrong. What he did for the team, goes far beyond stat sheets. It was sad to see a player who was so beloved initially in his career at the club, suddenly become the target for all things wrong.
So, why is this being written? Why is dirty laundry being aired while you search for DenzelDoorSlam.gif, in response to this? I promise, this isn't to stir the pot, or bring in more negativity to the team, but rather serve as a warning. A cautionary tale as we prepare for the second half of the season, fighting to secure a spot in the postseason. What Tyler Miller experienced, we saw glimpses of last year with Pablo Sisniega and Kenneth Vermeer. When one made a mistake, the other would start the next match or two. We can see it brewing now, as the calls to replace Tomas Romero, who is only 20-years-old and has had a great first season with the team, grow louder.
As LAFC grasp at everything they can in their feverish pursuit of silverware success, it’s important, now more than ever, to remember that these players are human, and this squad is young. “Veteran” Eduard Atuesta is only 24 years old, the very start of his athletic prime. Breakout star Jose Cifuentes, only 22.
The bigger, and final point is this: With such a young squad, considering a player's mindset is just as important as analyzing their form. Pursuing perfection should always be a motivation, but punishing for falling short can be damaging in the long run.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.