LAFC took the field for the first time in the 2022 campaign this past weekend. Hosting New England Revolution, the black-and-gold set out to re-establish themselves as MLS Cup contenders after failing to make the playoffs last season.
The match itself ended in a 1-1 draw. After giving up a sloppy goal in the first half, defender Mamadou Fall was able to convert a penalty kick to bring it level late in the match. For new head coach Steve Cherundolo, the match was less about the final result, and more about setting the foundation for how this team will play going forward.
“Our first and foremost idea in preseason was obviously fitness. Today was about fitness, but it was also about defensive shape and organization” said Cherundolo after the match.
According to the new head man, LAFC will be a team that focuses on defense first with Cherundolo saying “Our defensive shape is what we start with, then we will progress forward.” You can't blame him either, as the team let in 51 goals last season, one shy of the club record 52 goals allowed during the inaugural 2018 season.
This match was also Cherundolo’s first good look at players like Chicho Arango, and Carlos Vela.
“Carlos is a player who can change games, and with his technical ability you saw again, his passing, his vision, his ability to combine. It was a fantastic starting point and I'm really looking forward to keeping him in the mix,” said Cherundolo.
The entirety of the second half featured a mix of academy players climbing the ranks, or those currently on the team as trialists, looking for a spot on the opening day roster. Some of those players, like Kwadwo Opoku and recent draft pick Danny Trejo, have already played under Cherundolo during his stint with the Las Vegas Lights.
“I thought the effort was fantastic from them,” he said. “It’s obviously very easy to coach them, and calming for them to hear my voice because they've been hearing it for a while. I think their positioning could be much better at times mostly due to the increase in tempo and speed of play. That is something we will look at going forward. The more exposure they can get to a higher speed of play, the better they'll be.”
Now that he has his first preseason match as an MLS head coach under his belt, it will be interesting to see how the team adjusts going forward. Their next match is Wednesday, against former LAFC head coach Bob Bradley, now at the helm of Toronto FC. That match is unfortunately a closed door scrimmage, so updates on that one could be sparse. The next time we see the squad will be during their trip to Indio for the inaugural exhibition tournament being hosted by cross-town rivals, LA Galaxy. Don't get too excited, as the two will save their meetings for when it matters.
With the new campaign officially underway, the team is now back under the microscope as they hope to overcome any potential growing pains, and get back to winning ways in the Western Conference. This is only the beginning of what will be a long road, but Cherundolo seems to like what he sees. So far.
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