Cristian Olivera shows LAFC "progress" as Copa América nears


Cristian Olivera has found his shooting boots.

Assisted by Denis Bouanga’s pinpoint crossing, the 22-year-old Uruguayan international netted his first MLS brace to lead LAFC's 3-0 thumping of Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BMO Stadium on Saturday evening.

Following his brace midweek in the US Open Cup, Olivera has scored five goals in his past three games across all competitions. And despite rounding into form, he pushes praise onto his teammates.

“The work this team puts in and the sacrifice, moreover, the humility reflects on the field,” Olivera said. “As far as what [Bouanga] did, we have a good understanding of one another. He sets me up and I set him up too.”

Since Olivera wouldn’t praise his goalscoring, last season’s Golden Boot presented by Audi winner did it for him.

“He’s the same player as me. He’s attracted by the goal,” Bouanga said. “He made a lot of progress. We didn't see much of him last year, but this year we did. I wish I could have given him a third pass so he could have a hat trick to separate himself, [but] I was really happy he was at the right moment when I passed the ball.”

Realizing potential

Since arriving in Los Angeles from LaLiga side Almeria, Olivera has been a constant threat in LAFC’s attacking third. But he’s also been hampered by lackluster finishing after using his eye-catching skill to create chances.

In other words, the Black & Gold were just waiting for this moment from the dynamic attacker.

“It’s been a long road for Kike [Olivera] to become more prolific. He’s put a lot of individual work in the training field with coaches,” said head coach Steve Cherundolo. “He has the ability also to learn and get better. I think that’s what you’re seeing, so we’re very happy with his progression and his production.”

The fullback playing behind Olivera on the right flank, Sergi Palencia, seconded his coach’s analysis.

“It's just marvelous to see how hard this man works,” Palencia praised. “We have to tell him to take it easy and slow down at training because this guy only goes one level and that's full intensity.”

Olivera may be heating up at the perfect time with Copa América looming this summer. He got his first call-up to Uruguay's senior national team in last year’s World Cup qualifiers and hopes to solidify his spot in Marcelo Bielsa’s squad.

For now, Olivera appreciates his club teammates allowing him to shine.

“I think I’ve said it almost every interview, but the team effort is what makes one person better,” Olivera emphasized. “If there’s no teamwork, there’s no functioning on the individual side.”