But with preseason camp now underway, there’s speculation the positional group will look drastically different as the five-time MLS Cup champions approach Matchday 1 – and a second DP spot may become available.
One area of uncertainty involves winger Samuel Grandsir, head coach Greg Vanney acknowledged at his first official press conference of the year. Grandsir, signed in March 2021 from Ligue 1 side AS Monaco, may have to leave the club and return to France due to personal reasons that recently arose.
“We're just working through those things with him on a personal level with he and his family,” Vanney said. “And we'll have those solutions here, hopefully in the next week or so, and he'll either be here or he won't be here. We’ll see how that plays out.
“But it’s family-related. It’s not football-related, and that’s why we’ve got to work with the young man about what that looks like.”
Second DP spot?
Another possible change involves Douglas Costa, the former Brazil international who joined in February 2022 and previously played for UEFA Champions League regulars Juventus, Bayern Munich and Shakhtar Donetsk. This offseason, the DP winger has been linked with a reported return to recently-promoted Brazilian Serie A side Gremio, where he started his career and also spent a year on loan in 2021.
Costa is now on his way back to LA after spending the beginning of preseason in Brazil as he waited on a new passport. But Vanney also alluded to ongoing conversations with the player.
“When the passport came in, we needed to get the visa stamp on it, which took a little bit of time,” Vanney said. “In the process of that, we were aware of any conversations that might have been going on or being had. And for us, if a player doesn't want to be here, we're not forcing a player to be here, but it's a collaborative plan.
“If he wants to be here, then he'll be here and we'll line up with him and keep progressing him.”
Whatever arises, Vanney knows the importance of getting more goalscoring and chance-creation from LA’s wingers in 2023. Cabral, Costa and Grandsir combined for 8g/10a last season, placing increased importance and pressure on DP striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (18g/2a) and U22 Initiative striker Dejan Joveljic (11g/3a) delivering.
The underlying factor, as announced in early December and stemming back to the 2019 acquisition of Cristian Pavón, is LA face transfer-related sanctions this year. The simple version: their international shopping in 2023 must occur during the ongoing winter transfer window, not in the summer.
Vanney didn’t get into specifics position-wise, but the club seems poised for a busy few weeks.
“I will say that conversations that have happened for our potential DP spot are out there and conversations are going on, and also how we're going to manage that will kind of play itself out, I think, over the course of this month,” Vanney said.
Vanney later added: “It's about complementary pieces here. It's about finding the DP, but also the other complementary piece or two pieces that fit with that to build out the pieces of the puzzle that we think can improve our team.”
Last summer was when LA signed three key players from abroad: Uruguayan international center back Martín Cáceres along with midfielders Gastón Brugman and Riqui Puig, the latter an FC Barcelona product who’s a possible Landon Donovan MLS MVP candidate in 2023. Now, those types of midseason moves wouldn’t be possible under the sanctions.
Elsewhere in roster-building, LA’s main moves this winter have involved free agency – landing both center back Chris Mavinga (ex-Toronto FC) and midfielder Memo Rodríguez (ex-Houston Dynamo FC). But the pace and profile of signings, especially in the final third, may soon intensify.
“Again, like I said, two to three good, sound moves here before the season starts," Vanney said. "And now it's just a matter of timeline because we don't have the summer window to look abroad.”
LA’s 2022 season ended in El Trafico's latest chapter, a 3-2 defeat in the Western Conference Semifinals at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC progressed and eventually completed the league’s eighth-ever MLS Cup-Supporters’ Shield double.