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LAFC 2022 Player Postmortem: The players who didn’t see the field

Kicking off our annual series.

Every player here except Cal Jennings (left) played only for Las Vegas in 2022.
Courtesy of LAFC

LAFC had 30 players feature for the first team in 2022, an historic campaign that featured the club winning a domestic double of the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup.

But there were also players rostered who didn’t get on the field this year with the first team in competitive action. To kick off our annual series of looking back at the season for every player on LAFC in 2022, we begin with the players who didn’t make it onto the field.

In this case, all seven players were still getting playing time, as they all featured for LAFC’s reserve team, USL Championship outfit Las Vegas Lights. But a few words on each of them, who while they didn’t play a role in the games themselves, were still putting in the work on the training field and in USL action this year.

Erik Dueñas

Dueñas returned from a torn ACL suffered in the summer of 2021 this year, playing 11 games, with one start, for Lights FC. He did see time at several positions, so it may (or may not) be an indication he may not stay on the fullback track moving forward, we’ll see. Dueñas is 18 now, and while 2023 will be the year to really prove himself after missing a lot of time the past two years, he will be rostered for next season and we’ll see if he can push on and get back into the mix for LAFC.

Julian Gaines

Gaines was 19 in the 2022 season, and after signing with LAFC in 2021 and then suffering an injury to keep him out the rest of that season, he has yet to really get a sniff of the first team. In 2022, he played 10 games (5 starts) for Las Vegas, scoring a goal and an assist while playing in defense.

Gaines remains under contract as well for 2023 with LAFC, but if Franco Escobar doesn’t return next season, will that pave the way for Gaines and/or Dueñas? Stay tuned.

Tony Leone

The center back was 18 this season, and seems to have really benefitted from the regular playing time with Las Vegas. In 2022, he played 20 games (19 starts) for Lights FC, scoring one goal.

Leone was also a standout for Mexico at the Concacaf U-20 Championship in the spring. While Mexico disappointed, falling to Guatemala in the quarterfinals, Leone was one of only two El Tri players to be selected to the tournament Best XI, scoring two goals in four appearances.

The big question is if Leone is ready to make the step up to MLS in 2023. He also remains under contract with the club, and he’s the only one of the three original homegrowns yet to play a competitive minute for LAFC. The club has been deliberate in his development, but hopefully he can finally see some playing time next season, with LAFC set to play in about 100 competitions.

Nathan Ordaz

The new kid on the block, Ordaz was LAFC’s homegrown signing of 2022, coming in April. He made 17 appearances (3 starts) for Las Vegas in 2022. He seems to have been played as a striker, although it also seems like a player who could be moved around the field as his skills develop and needs arise. Ordaz will be 19 in January, and he also remains under contract for 2023.

Tomas Romero

Romero saw a lot of playing time in 2021, being thrown into the deep end by Bob Bradley and making 18 appearances at MLS level. He has intriguing skills as a goalkeeper but the chaos around him on that squad didn’t help matters, and he was brought back in the revamped LAFC as the 3rd string in 2022.

So Romero split time this year starting for Las Vegas with his namesake, Abraham Romero. Tomas had 13 starts in 2022 with Lights FC, the team going 3W-6L-4D when he was in goal.

Unlike the rest of this group, Romero’s contract option was just declined and it appears he will not continue with LAFC. That’s a surprise. He’s just 21, he’s a full international with El Salvador and seems to have the size and potential you want in a young goalkeeper. On Thursday, he was selected in the Re-Entry Draft by...Bob Bradley at Toronto FC. I don’t know if he’ll be starting imminently in MLS, but he seems to have the ability to start in this league, and so we’ll see what happens for him moving forward.

Mohamed Traore

Courtesy of Las Vegas Lights FC

The Senegalese defender was back for his third season in 2022 with LAFC, and once again spent the whole season with Las Vegas, as he was in part a casualty of the international roster slots logjam for the black-and-gold. Traore is a bit of a forgotten man, considering Mamadou Fall took all his thunder by swiftly blazing past his compatriot in the LAFC depth chart, but Traore has been working hard with his head down.

This season, Traore was a fixture for Lights FC, starting 28 of his 29 appearances and playing the full 90 most of those matches. Now 20, Traore also remains under contract for 2023 with LAFC. Will he get another chance with the first team, three years after his 45-minute MLS debut? Competition will likely be fierce, but perhaps Traore will get LAFC to say his name once more.

Christian Torres

Torres was a real bright spot during difficult times for LAFC in the wild 2020 season, but he’s been biding him time since. The forward seemed to grow up, in a real way, over the past two seasons, physically speaking. While he was uncommonly mature as a 16-year-old when he was a surprise regular for LAFC, the growth spurt seems to have taken some time to adjust to, which isn’t unusual for young male athletes.

Torres made 20 appearances, 10 starts, for Las Vegas in 2022, scoring one goal. He also played for Mexico at the U-20 Championship, scoring a nice goal.

It’s unbelievably tough for any of these players to break through to LAFC’s first team, but all the more so for Torres. It is true that with so many games next year, Torres — who remains under contract for 2023 — could see spot duty again, at long last, with the likes of Danny Musovski and Cal Jennings departed. He’ll clearly have to make the most of the time he sees, if he does, but hopefully Torres can get a look once again with another professional season under his belt.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.