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Golden Heart: Jesús Murillo

Flowers for the standout defender.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the debut of Golden Heart. The column where we shine a light on some of the LAFC players who do great things any given match week, but who might not make all the headlines. Maybe it’s a hat-trick of assists, a penalty save in a big moment, or like this week’s focus, maybe you prove to be a dependable force in defense. Such is the case with 28-year-old defender Jesús Murillo.

As you can clearly see, Murillo is no stranger to the spotlight. Featuring and scoring in last year’s MLS All-Star match, he’s still a relative unknown within the star-studded LAFC squad. With players in the past like Eduard Atuesta and Diego Rossi, to current names like Carlos Vela, Chicho Arango, and Kellyn Acosta, it's no surprise someone will get lost in the shuffle. Even Murillo’s own partner in the back, Mamadou Fall, has begun his journey to being a household name amongst black-and-gold faithful. Even still, Murillo has been a massive key to LAFC’s early success at keeping teams out of goal.

Through two matches the defense has only allowed one goal — a goal that, in fairness, was a moment of brilliance and would've been tough for any team to keep out — but more than the actual stats, the defense feels more reliable than seasons past. Murillo has played a major part in that. With Eddie Segura slowly returning from an injury sustained last season, Murillo was given the nod to start in central defense alongside Fall.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

That partnership has proven itself a solid foundation. In two matches Murillo has logged 170 of a possible 180 minutes. He has won 53% of his duels, as well as nabbing a team-high four interceptions in the early stages of the season. Stats aside, all you have to do is watch him to understand his importance. More than a handful of times this season he has been the first one back to disrupt a counterattack, or covering half the final third to prevent clean looks at goal.

Last season he had a knack for making critical goal-saving tackles, a skill he's only improved on this season. Even with Segura getting healthier, one has to wonder if the central defense isn't already cemented. On one side you have a young, talented defender who also provides a unique layer in his ability to contribute in attack. On the other, Murillo, who so far has proven to be nothing short of a tower of terror in defense. One thing is for sure, if he keeps this up, opposing teams will be lucky to just see the goal, let alone find chances to score on it.

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