With that season now behind them, LAFC look as strong a team as any in the league once again heading into 2021 with Vela and Rossi leading the lines, looking more like their record-setting 2019 squad.
- MLS Reg. Season: 7th place in Western Conference (32 pts - 1.45 PPG - 9-8-5, +8 GD)
- Audi MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in Round One by the Seattle Sounders, 3-1
- Concacaf Champions League: Eliminated in the final by Tigres UANL, 2-1
Among the league’s very best handful of players, Vela is back after injuries limited him to just four starts in 2020. The superstar was productive in his limited time, adding to his insane rate of 52 goals and 29 assists in just 66 career MLS matches. He’s one of the favorites for MVP in this pyrotechnic attack.
Overshadowed at times by Vela, Rossi proved he’d be the top dog on most MLS teams in 2020, winning the Golden Boot from the wing in Vela’s absence. His future is likely in Europe, but a move has yet to materialize for the Uruguay international. Enjoy him while you can.
Atuesta, too, is one of the league’s burgeoning young talents as he enters the beginning of his prime. He was named to MLS Best XI in 2019 for his stellar performances at the base of LAFC’s midfield. The team has struggled to replace him when he was out with injury.
Young Player to Watch
WIth all the absences in the playoffs last year, Torres got the nod from Bob Bradley and became the youngest player in MLS history to start a playoff game. He'll turn 17 the day before the season starts but clearly is a huge talent. He has a ton of starts ahead of him, but should be able to carve out some minutes in 2021.
- Kim Moon-hwan: Right back was a problem spot for LAFC in 2020 and the hope is the South Korea international can change that. The 25-year-old was acquired from Busan IPark and has made 11 appearances with the national team.
- Corey Baird: Just a few years removed from his 2018 Rookie of the Year campaign, Baird adds to the wealth of attacking options in Bradley’s side. He can play all across the front line and his direct play style should suit LAFC quite nicely. He had 15 goals and 13 assists in 81 career appearances with Real Salt Lake.
- Marco Farfan: Farfan was another intra-MLS addition for LAFC, acquired in a trade with Portland. The 22-year-old earned regular playing time last year for the first time in his career, making 14 appearances for the Timbers.
- Brian Rodriguez: The rising Uruguay international was sent on loan to UD Almeria with a purchase option, so he may return this summer. For now, let’s list him as out. The 20-year-old flashed his immense talent at times with LAFC and had two goals plus seven assists in 19 appearances last year.
- Bradley Wright-Phillips: BWP spent a season with LAFC and quickly shook off doubters who thought he was done. Wright-Phillips had eight goals and six assists in 1,081 minutes and has since signed with the Columbus Crew.
Projected Starting XI
- Goalkeepers (3): Tomas Romero, Pablo Sisniega, Kenneth Vermeer
- Defenders (9): Tristan Blackmon, Erik Duenas, Marco Farfan, Jordan Harvey, Tony Leone, Jesus Murillo, Diego Palacios, Eddie Segura, Mohamed Traore
- Midfielders (6): Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing, Jose Cifuentes, Bryce Duke, Francisco Ginella, Mark-Anthony Kaye
- Forwards (8): Corey Baird, Cal Jennings, Danny Musovski, Kwadwo Opoku, Brian Rodriguez, Diego Rossi, Christian Torres, Carlos Vela
Armchair Analyst's Breakdown
- Strength: They brought back the entire group that made it to within minutes of winning the Concacaf Champions League, which is a pretty good foundation! They also have, in Vela, probably the best player in the league. In Rossi, Kaye, Atuesta and Segura, they have a number of guys who are top-3 at their respective positions. And after a busy offseason, they actually have depth everywhere on the field this year.
- Weakness: Right now center forward looks like a weakness, though that could change if Baird or Cal Jennings really clicks, or if Danny Musovski levels up. Or if they spend a DP slot on it. Goalkeeper, however, seems like a much thornier issue as both Kenneth Vermeer and Pablo Sisniega got ample opportunities to show they were worth the No. 1 kit, and neither made a convincing case.
- Charles Boehm: 2nd in West
- Tom Bogert: 1st in West
- Susannah Collins: 2nd in West
- Charlie Davies: 1st in West
- Matthew Doyle: 1st in West
- Sam Jones: 1st in West
- Michael Lahoud: 2nd in West
- Joe Lowery: 1st in West
- Jillian Sakovits: 2nd in West
- Greg Seltzer: 1st in West
- Steve Zakuani: 1st in West