One glaring absence for LAFC during their post-MLS is Back Tournament rough patch has been midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who’s recovering from a right foot injury.
There’s hope on the horizon, however, that the 2019 Best XI selection will be available Sunday when the defending Supporters’ Shield champions host the Portland Timbers (11 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, on DAZN in Canada). If not then, head coach Bob Bradley sounds optimistic that the No. 6’s return is approaching.
"Eduard has been back in some limited training,” Bradley said via virtual press conference Saturday afternoon. “He's not ready to start and we're still discussing whether we will have him in our 20 to perhaps be able to give us a little bit if needed, but I'm very pleased with what I've seen with his progress in the last few days."
Atuesta went down injured in LAFC’s quarterfinal loss July 31 against Orlando City, and hasn’t featured since as they’ve lost four of their last five matches. Aside from Atuesta, the Black & Gold have also been without star forward Carlos Vela (grade 2 MCL sprain) after he went down injured in their Aug. 22 El Trafico loss against the LA Galaxy, having played just 57 minutes.
Whenever Atuesta is available, the 23-year-old Colombian should provide stability in midfield following last season’s breakout performance. But he might not be joined by Latif Blessing, who’s usually in the No. 8 role and using his boundless energy to help LAFC control the tempo.
Bradley said it’s taken longer than they would’ve hoped for right back Andy Najar to be ready, necessitating that Blessing slots back.
“With the situation at the moment, we’ve challenged Latif to be the best right back,” Bradley said. “We’ve worked with him now every day to try and help him understand a few things. He’s played some important moments for us at right back last year and in the early part of this year, and he can do the job. At the moment that’s still the focus."