After five matches into the 2022 season, it’s safe to say LAFC 2.0 has gotten off to a great start. LAFC currently sit atop the Western Conference as the only unbeaten team on that side of the table. They are one of just three unbeaten teams remaining, Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire the other two. After the offseason the team had, you would've been hard pressed to find anyone who thought they'd look this good this fast. It's more than just the record in the standings, it's how the team have looked, how they've felt to start the new campaign. This is a team that is building back to its levels from 2019, a team that knows it has everything to play for this season, with little room for excuses.
The goal of Golden Heart is to highlight not just the players on the pitch, but anyone who has a hand in this team’s success that might be flying under the radar. While it will likely feature more players than not, its important to shine light on coaching as well. After all, they are usually the first ones blamed should the team have a stretch of poor form or a string of losses. So naturally, we should toss them bouquets when they help navigate the team successfully.
Let’s be honest, the reception to Steve Cherundolo’s appointment was somewhere between “oh no why him?” and “just hope the team doesn't finish last.” There were very few people who genuinely liked this hire, and even fewer who thought the team would be as good as they have been to start. In fairness, it wasn't just the change in coaching, during the offseason LAFC lost a lot of core talent as they began to shake up the squad and focus on the next era of club building.
“There won’t be very much change, change on the sideline of course, but I am also a face players have seen over the past year. There won’t be a rebuild or a lot of change.”
This was what Cherundolo stressed during his introductory press conference, that this team isn't rebuilding. That despite the change, as a coach who had spent the year previous working with the club’s USL affiliate, Las Vegas Lights, the relationships with players was there. He talked about wanting to make sure LAFC remains the team that will “score goals and make fans happy and proud.”
He wasn't wrong either. Just look at the start of the season so far for LAFC. Guys like Mamadou Fall and Mahala Opoku have made incredible impacts early. Two players that while they featured for the senior team last season, also spent a fair amount of time learning under Steve with the Lights. While many used the record of the USL side against Cherundolo upon his appointment, it’s obvious that time spent cultivating relationships within the club was time well spent. Not to mention the impressive displays from the new arrivals.
Sure, we all know that a loss will come eventually. While it’s always possible we see the first-ever unbeaten MLS season this year, it’s more likely we won't. Still, that won't negate the start we’ve had, and it won't erase the very obvious improvement with this team. The scariest part is players like Chicho Arango and Eddie Segura are still on the mend from injuries. They will only improve the squad when they return to full health and form.
So, new head coach Steve Cherundolo, please accept these flowers. We see the hard work you've put in, and admire how well you've done throughout this process. It can't be easy taking over a team as talked about as LAFC — or one with as high as standards and expectations — especially in your first-ever professional HC gig. Not only have you done well, you've opened a lot of eyes. May not have started the season as a household name, but should the season continue like this, it won't be long before that too has changed.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!