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LAFC 2022 Player Postmortem: Giorgio Chiellini

The champion helped make LAFC champions.

MLS: Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Finals-Austin FC at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

With Giorgio Chiellini, LAFC swung for the fences, and to extend the metaphor, they hit a home run.

Now granted, signing a guy who turned 38 in August was not a move without risks, but what was LAFC lacking in their quest for MLS Cup glory? They didn’t have the experience, the leadership, the intangibles to push a talented team over the top. No matter what Chiellini could do on the field, as long as he was credible, he could provide all of that, based on his long and successful tenures with Juventus and the Italian national team.

And he was good on the field, too. In his debut, against Nashville SC in Tennessee in July, he was in a footrace in the opening minutes with a Nashville attacker, and he closed the space quickly. He may have been an old guy, but he still had it.

Here are Chiellini’s stats with LAFC in 2022:

Giorgio Chiellini LAFC 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 11 9 715 0 1 3 0 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 2 1 46 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 13 10 761 0 1 3 0 1 0

To be sure, Chiellini still had enough physical gifts to hang in MLS, but I think he succeeded because he did his homework, literally. He familiarized himself with MLS and LAFC, watching tons of gametape before even stepping on the field. This sounds obvious, but think of all the big-name stars who come to MLS, assume they will find it easy, and then find it is not at all easy and struggle. Chiellini ensured he understood the style of play and culture of MLS before he started playing, and that helped him fit seamlessly in LAFC’s lineup.

It also helped that LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo could rotate his center backs down the stretch. Ultimately, it became a four-man group, of Chiellini, Eddie Segura, Jesus David Murillo and Sebastien Ibeagha. Those four were all playing minutes and ready for action, so there was no rust and any of the four of them could go in the crunch games. Chiellini seemed to be dealing with a minor muscle injury in the playoffs, and ended up playing limited minutes, but because the rotation worked so well, there was no issue with him sitting out, a sign of both Cherundolo’s ability to keep everyone engaged and Chiellini being a good team player.

But I do think that Chiellini’s ultimate contributions were in the intangibles. He was only one of several midseason additions added to go for broke by LAFC, and while he was one of the most impactful of that group in terms of minutes played and on-field contributions, he was also a player who clearly could guide LAFC through a playoff run, having successfully made it through a tournament with the trophy just a year earlier at the Euros. LAFC’s previous Achilles’ heel had been their lack of vocal leadership and ability to grind through big games in knockout scenarios (the run to the 2020 Concacaf Champions League final notwithstanding), and a player like Chiellini fit perfectly in the team’s needs. He may not have been on the field much for the MLS Cup run, but Chiellini was bringing the combination of advice and hype to keep the team in the right frame of mind at all times. Given two of the three playoff games were very tight games decided by the narrowest of margins, they needed every tool in the kit they had.

Also, like it or not but Chiellini was willing to do whatever it took to win. Even do a volleyball palm at the center line for some reason.

My favorite part of this is his half-hearted protest at being yellow carded, to keep up appearances. This is unquestionably the funniest highlight of LAFC’s season.

So it was a successful season for Chiellini at LAFC and he is under contract for 2023 with the club. Given all the competitions the black-and-gold will be involved in next season, they need as many capable players as possible, and aside from the knocks that he had to deal with, Chiellini was generally in good shape when he did play and did play a fair few minutes to help the team win the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. I think he came to this team with the right frame of mind, ready to be a team player and have an American adventure, and so far, so good. Let’s hope that continues in 2023.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.