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LAFC 2022 Player Postmortem: Sebas Méndez

Midseason addition brought depth.

MLS: Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Semifinals-LA Galaxy at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jhegson Sebastián “Sebas” Méndez was a surprise addition to LAFC in July 2022. Amidst a transfer spending spree that included the additions of Gareth Bale, Giorgio Chiellini, Denis Bouanga and Cristian Tello, the acquisition of Méndez in a trade from Orlando City was more like John Thorrington’s roster strategy ahead of the 2022 season, where beefing up LAFC’s experience within MLS was prized.

On an expiring contract, Méndez appeared to have been picked up for a few reasons. He obviously had experience in MLS, playing three and a half season in Orlando, and he had international experience with Ecuador, while also being at a good age, 25. A defensive midfielder with a good passing range, he was arguably an upgrade over Francisco Ginella, who had been sent back to Uruguay on loan, and with the club pushing for trophies they needed every upgrade they could get. And then being on an expiring contract, that could give LAFC some roster flexibility moving forward if necessary.

As it was, I understand having cover in case any of the starters went down, but in the end, Méndez didn’t play a lot. Ilie Sanchez, Jose Cifuentes and Kellyn Acosta took the lion’s share of the starters’ minutes in midfield, with Latif Blessing and Méndez getting what was left over, which wasn’t a lot.

Here are Méndez’s competitive stats with LAFC in 2022:

Sebas Méndez 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 9 1 211 0 0 5 0 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 2 0 14 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 11 1 225 0 0 5 0 0 0

Méndez’s start came in a regular season road game at the San Jose Earthquakes, during LAFC’s losing streak late in the season. Otherwise, he came in off the bench to see out results.

Obviously he contributed to LAFC’s double season, which probably softened the blow of departing Orlando City just before they won the U.S. Open Cup, but he was not a key player for the black-and-gold this year. With LAFC making so many changes to their roster late in the season, it may not be a surprise he got lost in the shuffle, but he showed up while not doing a ton to distinguish himself in limited minutes. He’s certainly not the only player to be in that scenario.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. Méndez may not have been a starter for LAFC, but he was for Ecuador, starting all three games at the World Cup for La Tri. Now that they’re out of the tournament, he can think about what he’ll do next in his career, and as a Free Agent, he has options both within MLS beyond LAFC and also potentially abroad. I’m not sure how hot the market is, to be honest, and I’m not sure how hard LAFC are trying to get him back, although they did say they were in talks to bring him back, so he could very well come back for 2023.

Again, I think his being a free agent gives LAFC some flexibility. If Méndez does not re-sign, LAFC don’t owe Orlando City an additional $225,000 in allocation money in 2023 and an additional $225,000 in 2024, as part of the trade agreement. Additionally, they would shave $600,000 off their payroll if he walked, which is not nothing. On the other hand, if Cifuentes departs this offseason, as expected, then bringing back Méndez, who admittedly does not play really at all like Cifuentes, may make more sense to provide some experience and continuity to the midfield.

So I’m talking myself into letting Méndez walk unless the club knows there will be a clear-out in midfield, but that’s not to say he’s not a decent player. Furthermore, in 2023, LAFC’s going to be playing in at least four competitions — Concacaf Champions League, MLS, U.S. Open Cup and Leagues Cup — and a player like Méndez would still likely see a decent amount of time, as squad rotation will be essential. Maybe it won’t be worth $600,000 kind of money for eight starts a year, but injuries and fixture congestion could mean that players who were a luxury in 2022 may end up being essential in a different year.

So we’ll see. Méndez had a good 2022, even if his minutes on the field with LAFC were limited, and time will tell what’s next for him in his career.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.