The MLS is officially back. Yesterday, the MLS held their annual panel where head coaches and players across the league take a moment to speak to media ahead of the new season. For LAFC, it was new Head Coach, Steve Cherundolo, who took to the podium to share his thoughts on new signings, recent preseason results, and what he thinks about the high expectations for this club.
It’s no secret that much is expected of Cherundolo in his first year at the helm of LAFC. After four years the honeymoon period has ended, and many expect this team to now take the next step and start competing, consistently, for championships and silverware. While this may be his first year as a head coach in the MLS, Cherundolo is no stranger to pressure.
“Pressure is relative. Do we want to win every game we put on the jersey? Yes, of course. To put all this pressure on your shoulders as a group and as a coach, to perform at your highest every game is probably not realistic. You can make it [pressure] into a big mean monster, or you can put it behind you for a while and deal with it later, I think that would be the ideal way to deal with it right now.”
Contributing to that pressure, has been the recent preseason results. With the team playing a bulk of the preseason behind closed-doors, many haven't been able to see the team in action, only able to judge them purely off results. Despite the preseason results as of late, Cherundolo made clear what we all should already know and accept, preseason isn't always a true barometer of how your season will play out. “I’ve been involved in preseason as a player. I recall a preseason match against Real Madrid, while with Hannover, and we won 3-0, and a week later we lost our first game in the Bundesliga” said Steve.
For him, preseason is about establishing the team's identity, and getting guys comfortable with one another, not just for the first match, or first month, but for the length of an entire season. “I think we’re very close to seeing our style of football that fans here in LA are used to seeing. We still have a week to go until our first match, physically we aren't quite there yet but we have time still and the season is also very long.”
As for the bigger picture, the man in charge isn't quite ready to start talking about — or focusing on — MLS Cups. “I think it’s a little early on to be talking about projections on where we end up at the end of the season. Anytime I'm leading a group or a team, the most important thing is to maximize our potential” Steve said. “We have a lot of potential, we have the ability to play good football, the ability to score goals, so to maximize that and get the most out of the season, we need to stay healthy. If we’re healthy I think we have a lot of fun this year.”
Steve Cherundolo may not have been the first name atop many people’s lists to replace Bob Bradley, but you can't deny he brings a sense of calm, and an understanding of the club as a whole. He knows the expectations, but also knows stressing over it is a losing battle. He knows championships are the goal, but knows the MLS season is long, and talking about that stuff before match day one is pointless. He also knows who the leader of the team is, when asked who will wear the captain's armband for him this year, he kept it short and simple “Carlos [Vela] will be our captain for the season.”
What do you think? Leave a comment below!