LAFC keep mining South America for young talent, with no plans to stop

Diego Rossi - Eduard Atuesta - LAFC

LOS ANGELES — LAFC continue gobbling up young South American talent, building a strong and dynamic foundation for the coming years. The latest addition: stylish midfielder Jose Cifuentes.

The Ecuadorian international, who turns 21 on March 12, was announced Monday as the seventh South American under-22 player on LAFC's roster, and head coach Bob Bradley says more could be coming down the pipeline.

“We're always looking for young talent, and so I think our scouting network has done a really good job of identifying players in South America,” Bradley said after leading his first training session of preseason camp Monday. “We continue to look in other places as well, but I think the way we play has been something that has attracted attention in South America.

“Whenever you get young players that come here and succeed and do well — the way, for example, Diego [Rossi] and Eduard [Atuesta] have done in the first two seasons — then that creates more interest in those places," Bradley continued. "And then young players in those countries see it as a real opportunity for them. So we feel good that the kind of football that we play and the way that we are headed seems to be something that people are excited about, and we try to use that when we get opportunities to scout and recruit players.”

Cifuentes, who will be eligible once his visa and international transfer certificate are in hand, is the second young South American player to join LAFC since its loss to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Final at the end of October. Uruguayan midfielder Francisco Ginella, who will be 21 next week, signed in December.

“Cifuentes is a talented midfielder,” Bradley said. “For Ecuador in the under-20s [World Cup], I think he played a really important role. ... Dynamic midfielder, maybe more of an 8, but still at times drops and can play more of a defensive role. Scored an excellent goal in the under-20 World Cup against the United States, where he cut inside and hit a great shot.

“A young, talented player, dynamic in the midfield, and somebody that I think will fit in with some of the other really good young players I have.”

LAFC certainly have a lot of very good young players.

Rossi, a wide attacker from Uruguay who will turn 22 on March 5, has scored 28 goals with 16 assists in 66 regular-season games as a Designated Player over LAFC's first two seasons. Atuesta, a 22-year-old Colombian holding midfielder, has started 46 games and assisted 13 goals in two years. He was an MLS Best XI selection last season. Colombian center back Eddie Segura, who will be 23 next month, started 33 games last year for the league's top defensive side.

In August, LAFC signed 19-year-old Uruguayan forward Brian Rodriguez, who made seven appearances last season as a Designated Player, then signed 20-year-old Ecuadorian defender Diego Palacios two weeks later.

There are also more experienced latin talents on their books, including reigning MLS MVP Carlos Vela, goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega and defender Danilo Silva.

More South American talent could be coming, but LAFC has cast a far wider net.

“You want to try to identify young talent everywhere,” Bradley said. “And, please, that includes the U.S. We're always trying to see if there are players right now that are 17- to 20-year-old Americans that aren't quite connected with different teams that maybe help us bridge the gap.

“We think our academy is going in a very positive way, but our academy kids pretty much start at '04 [birth year]. So that still leaves a little bit of a window there for us to continue to try to look around. So we are always looking in different directions, trying to see if we can find players that we think make sense to bring here, get a look at, get to know. And then we also continue to see if we can make some strides in how we cover young players in other parts of the world.”