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LAFC 2021 Player Postmortem: Diego Palacios

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Left back endured some lumps with team.

Portland Timbers v Los Angeles FC Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Diego Palacios returned for his second full season with LAFC in 2021, and like the team, he failed to hit his top heights.

The Ecuadorian was coming off his best stretch to date with the black-and-gold, the run to the Concacaf Champions League final in Dec. 2020, and it seemed like the left back had finally figured out what he needed to do to become a star.

But he’s young, and while he wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t at his best back in MLS last season and the inconsistency plagued him as much as the rest of the team all season long.

At one point, based on Bob Bradley favoring defense-minded Marco Farfan over Palacios and the comments the manager made to the press, it appeared Palacios was being given a message to keep working and not take the playing time for granted. Bradley mostly just hinted at it, but seemed to say that Palacios needed to stay humble to get better.

Here were Palacios’ stats in 2021 with LAFC:

Diego Palacios 2021 LAFC Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 27 19 1,758 0 2 19 5 2 0

The flip-side of Palacios’ possible short-term benching is he still played a lot of minutes and was the preferred left back overall, with rotation kind of necessary given the rigors of the schedule, and that Bradley’s defense often utilized one fullback bomb forward into the attack throughout a game, with the other one staying back anchored in defense. When Palacios and Kim Moon-hwan at right back would both stretch the field with their attacking forays, LAFC’s already stressed defense was completely overwhelmed by opposing attacks. Sure, you could tell one of them to stay home, and pick their spots, but you could also argue the system really didn’t work with two attacking fullbacks, given how little support the defense got regularly anyway.

So I’m curious to see how Palacios looks with Steve Cherundolo in charge. Given the new manager was himself a fullback, it may be particularly beneficial for that position group to learn under the former U.S. international. But I think if Palacios can keep his mindset right and be willing to earn the playing time, he’s still just 22 and has a lot of room to grow. At his best, he seems capable of being an MLS Best XI player, but in order to do that, he needs to perform consistently well and LAFC need to do likewise. I’m curious to see how he performs in what I hope will be a better supported defensive system under Cherundolo.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.