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LAFC 2021 Player Postmortem: Tomas Romero

Youngster plays major minutes in first pro season.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at San Jose Earthquakes Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Tomas Romero was a promising addition for LAFC in 2021. I believed he would be one for the future, as the black-and-gold signed him after a trade with the Philadelphia Union, where he came through their well-regarded academy, with a season and an NCAA title at Georgetown in the interim.

LAFC got to sign him as a Homegrown player, which was certainly cap-friendly, and he began the season on loan at Las Vegas Lights FC. Clearly, he was going to get a season or three as a backup, and see him later, right?

Not at all. Bob Bradley became well-known for his musical chairs in his tenure as LAFC head coach with the club’s goalkeepers, and so it was in 2021. Pablo Sisniega started the first several games, and with only two goalkeepers on the roster at that point, it was then Tomas Romero’s music played.

All in all, it looked like Romero had wrapped up the No. 1 for the season, as he ended up playing just over half the season, but of course, the musical chairs game started again, and Jamal Blackman took over for the final stretch of the season.

Here’s Romero’s stats with LAFC in 2021:

Tomas Romero 2021 LAFC Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Saves Goals Allowed GAA Shutouts Win % Save % Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 18 18 1,620 34 28 1.56 4 39 54.8 2 0

While Romero had some USL Championship experience coming into his official rookie season, 22 games across four seasons, making the step up to MLS as a 20-year-old is certainly just that, a step up. Statistically, he was worst in most categories compared to Sisniega and Blackman, but none of them really stood out. Was it because none were starter-caliber or because Bradley’s system put an undue burden on the defense and goalkeeper putting out fires?

We may find out for 2022, because Bradley has moved on and Steve Cherundolo is the new coach in town. Cherundolo, of course, worked with Romero at Las Vegas Lights, too, and Romero is currently the only goalkeeper on the roster, Sisniega being traded away and Blackman not renewed. Will Romero be the No. 1 moving forward or will the club sign a starter and give Romero a back-up role for a time? I really don’t know how they’re going to play it, and I think it’s a dilemma for the club. Bradley’s rotation of goalkeepers never did his many goalkeepers favors, and aside from Tyler Miller for the first season and a half of the club, no one has looked settled. I think with a better defensive system, the goalkeeper will be under less pressure and will perform. And I think even with the stats not showing Romero favorably, I think he can be a good goalkeeper. In particular, the one advanced stat where he shined was the one that says the quality of shots he stopped in 2021 was high, and he was one of the best in MLS at that. That sure seems like a good start for the young man.

Plus, now that he’s decided to play for El Salvador, with Hugo Perez in charge of that national team, I think that can help his development, too. It’s hard to explain, but Romero seems to have a “silky” quality to his play, which doesn’t really make sense for a position like goalkeeper, I realize. But if he can get accustomed to the wars of attrition and grit needed to play in Concacaf, especially for a smaller country, his ceiling could be pretty high in combining the class and grind needed to succeed.

At the same time, at 21, LAFC could opt to take some pressure off him and bring in a starter for 2022 and see what happens in the future. That may not be the worst idea, although it could dampen his burgeoning international career if he becomes a backup. Or not, you never know. And with LAFC claiming they want to compete for titles now and they’re not in a rebuild, putting all their faith in a very young goalkeeper is a big risk/reward proposition. It may work out. It may not, and that could be the difference between a trophy and nothing.

But as he’s just starting his career, I have to say I like the intangibles to Romero’s game and think he’s got a bright future. He’s still so young, so if he indeed is the starter moving forward, there’s bound to be some growing pains, but I hope he gets the chance to really establish himself, and LAFC could have a building block of their roster for years to come. In that way, he’s a very exciting player moving forward.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.