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LAFC 2021 Player Postmortem: Jesus David Murillo

Defender showed all facets of his game.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Minnesota United FC Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

When Jesus David Murillo arrived late in the 2020 season for LAFC, he was a breath of fresh air. In his first full season at the club? We saw the full range of the Colombian’s offerings.

Murillo immediately brought two things to LAFC’s backline when he was signed: He was a vocal leader in the back and he had an aerial presence the team needed. Murillo ended up being a belated Walker Zimmerman replacement, their games ultimately sharing numerous similarities.

In those initial appearances, wrapping up with a rousing trip to the Concacaf Champions League, only to fall short in the final half-hour of the final, Murillo looked like he could be a defender to rival Zimmerman, now a back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year since leaving LAFC.

Murillo stayed healthy — half the battle in the COVID era, frankly — and was LAFC’s minutes leader for the season, but he also showed some of the warts of his game across an entire season.

Here are Murillo’s stats in 2021:

Jesus David Murillo 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 32 32 2,745 0 0 11 2 9 0

I think the biggest concern around Murillo overall in 2021 was his penchant for a real boneheaded play. Dribbling deep in LAFC’s zone in the first El Trafico of the year led to a teenage winger stripping him of the ball and setting up the winning goal for the LA Galaxy. The commanding presence was far more intermittent, and he was liable to lose focus at the worst moment as much as his teammates. When he’s supposed to be the vocal leader of the backline, that wavering focus is concerning.

The advanced stats for Murillo on FBref.com show that in comparing his play to other MLS defenders, he was off in 2021. Obviously he’s not counted on to be a big scorer, but it is concerning that he was merely slightly above average in aerials won, which is supposed to be one of his strengths.

Don’t forget, Murillo was a late addition to the MLS All-Star team in 2021, and while I think even LAFC fans can admit his selection was more a product of convenience than of true merit, he made his appearance in the game count, scoring the ever-important goal for the MLS All-Stars against the Liga MX All-Stars in front of the North End, his only goal in 2021.

Murillo is still clearly an MLS-level defender, and if he can stay locked in and avoid simple errors, he can be important. I think a little more support in system would benefit him, perhaps more than anyone, so we’ll see if Steve Cherundolo can offer that.

But I also think with Eddie Segura supposedly ahead of schedule in his recovery from ACL surgery, and Mamadou Fall appearing to be a budding star, Murillo may get real competition for starter’s minutes and may need to step up to ensure he remains in the lineup. For a veteran entering his prime years, some motivation like this may be just what he needs to get back on track and cut out the silly mistakes. LAFC have suffered from a lack of depth for years at the position anyway, and with those three and Sebastien Ibeagha, Mohamed Traore and Tony Leone also in the mix, competition may do even the most veteran players good to stay focused.

So I have definitely soured some on Murillo after his strong first impression in 2020. I think he can do better than he did last season, however, so I hope he can show a rebound in his game and help LAFC get back to contender status sooner than later.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.