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LAFC 2022 Player Postmortem: Brian Rodriguez

Thanks for the memories.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Los Angeles FC Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Rodriguez returned for his fourth season with LAFC in 2022, and ultimately, he got his wish and found a permanent exit from the club before season’s end.

In the pantheon of LAFC Designated Players to date, the club has tended to have extreme hits (Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi) or misses (Andre Horta). Rodriguez was very much in the middle of that scale, although ultimately more towards a “miss” than a “hit.” Still, he was objectively a contributor, albeit in streaks, and an object lesson to all that standards are high for DPs, and some are great, some are the opposite of that, and some are just kind of alright, ultimately.

But I think by the time the 2022 season rolled around, most folks were worn out by Rodriguez. After the 2020 season, in which he played a key role until catching COVID in the fall and didn’t participate in the late-year run to the Concacaf Champions League final at all, he literally said he was over this place, get him out of Los Angeles.

LAFC complied as much as they could, loaning him to Spanish second-division side Almería for the first half of 2021, where his immaturity ended up getting him benched, and a much hoped-for (by all sides) permanent transfer did not materialize. He returned to the black-and-gold for the second half of the 2021 season, and seemed to be taking his lumps and appeared to understand he had some growing up to do. Don’t forget, he was all of 21 years old at the time, and he would not be the first immensely talented player to act like a punk in his youth at times.

To his credit, Rodriguez put his head down and got to work to start the new regime under Steve Cherundolo this year, and while everyone knew he was looking for the exit door, he mostly kept his mouth shut and played.

Here are Rodriguez’s stats with LAFC in 2022:

Brian Rodriguez 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 14 10 824 2 3 28 10 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 1 0 45 0 0 1 0 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 15 10 869 2 3 29 10 1 0

Rodriguez played pretty regularly up until he was transferred, and while we all hoped to see him scoring and assisting more regularly, his advanced stats were fairly strong until his departure. ASA’s Goals-Added metric had him as a +0.83 for the 2022 season with LAFC, and each of the four seasons he was on the team he had a positive Goals+ metric.

And while I don’t usually include FBref.com scouting report graphs for players who split time with two clubs in a season, considering the bulk of the minutes represented here are from his time with LAFC, you can see his game more-or-less boiled down: Exceptional at chance creation and xG numbers, his ability to actually convert that boatload of chances never really fully came off.

FBref.com

The highlight of Rodriguez’s season with LAFC was the summer win over the San Jose Earthquakes, a game in which the teams were throwing haymakers and LAFC’s past “defense? Let’s just do vibes here” habits came out hard. Rodriguez had the winning goal and an assist in the 3-2 win.

Ultimately, Rodriguez’s time came to an end in early August, when he was transferred to Liga MX side Club América for a reported $6 million fee. Yes, LAFC took a loss on the transfer fee, but that’s a good fee considering Rodriguez never fully lived up to the hype when he was signed and they were most likely never going to make a profit on the fee they originally paid, and they needed to move him on in the midst of a midseason shopping spree. While Cristian Tello barely played and did nothing of note after slotting into Rodriguez’s DP slot, LAFC got to make the bulk of the money they paid for him back and he got to move on to a club with a bigger profile than LAFC. And then LAFC won the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. Win-win-win.

At América, Rodriguez barely played in the 2022 Apertura, but he did have a key role in the playoffs, scoring two goals and an assist in the series win over Puebla in the playoffs. He looks like he will be a key player moving forward for Las Aguilas, and if he performs there, that can still give him a platform to get a permanent move in Europe and possibly back to the Uruguay National Team after he was not selected for this year’s World Cup. It’s entirely possible he has a better run in Liga MX, players sometimes do better or worse in different leagues, and while he had his moments, MLS may not have been the best environment for him to thrive.

I think it would be easy to say that Rodriguez underperformed overall at LAFC, and his desperation to leave the club left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths. All of that can be true, but while I would not consider him a successful DP in the end, he was not a disaster either, and he certainly played a role in winning the 2019 and 2022 Supporters’ Shields with the black-and-gold. Hopefully he continues to grow, on and off the field, and eventually fulfills his ambitions.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.