LOS ANGELES — On a warm morning this past May, John Thorrington sat in the stands at Estadio Florencio Sola in Banfield, Argentina watching two reserve squads face off. He’d come to monitor a few players identified by Los Angeles FC's global network of scouts but a flash of brilliance in the 13th minute turned his attention elsewhere.
“That’s the way scouting works sometimes,” said Thorrington, LAFC's executive vice president of soccer operations and general manager. “You have one target in mind but you’re also out there speculating, and he caught my eye.”
The player in question was 21-year-old Rodrigo Pacheco, who LAFC signed to a 12-month loan deal with an option to buy, and the moment was a goal that earned his team — Atlético Lanús — a 1-0 victory over their rivals, Atlético Banfield, in the Clásico del Sur.
“He showed great mobility, fantastic technique and he’s got an eye for goal,” Thorrington said. “He played as a central striker, scored a very good goal in the game and great ability to combine and fit well with what will be our style of play.”
That style of play is still a work in progress ahead of LAFC's much-anticipated opening season in 2018. Although they have recently announced the marqueesignings of former US national team head coach Bob Bradley and Mexico international Carlos Vela, Thorrington had already been recruiting players for months prior.
“They are all in the plans,” Bradley said when asked about his own scouting trips before a town-hall style event with supports and media last week. “It’s been so busy up until now but there will be all sorts [of recruitment trips].”
Besides Argentina, Thorrington’s spring South American trip included stops in Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay. He’s also visited Central America, Europe multiple times, and Asia. Thorrington, who is originally from South Africa, added that he’s been in conversations with scouts in Africa as well.
“We try to cast our net high far and wide.” Thorrington, pictured above, said of the club’s strategy to build the roster between now and January when preseason camp opens.
The club’s move for a player from the reserves of an Argentine first division team shows just how far and wide LAFC are wiling to cast that net. It was also a clear that sign LAFC’s strategy won’t exclusively revolve around big-name, big-money players. They have a refined recruitment protocol in place, which includes signing players to loans when it makes sense and always watching them in-person before making any moves.
“Thankfully technology allows to identity players from afar before targeting them,” Thorrington said. “It’s always a part of our process to see these guys live before signing them.”
The team now has a total of four players on the books: Before Vela and Pacheco, the team had already acquired two players — American Carlos Alvarez and Nigerian Monday Bassem Etim. Like Pacheco, both are spending this season on loan in Irvine with Orange County SC of the USL.
“When you build a roster, you try to make sure that you cover every possible situation,” said Bradley when asked if he’s recruiting domestically. “You look outside the country, you try to understand the possibilities in the league, free agency, maybe guys that are getting near the end of contracts, and, obviously with NASL, understanding some of the players that maybe haven’t gotten a chance yet.”
Bradley added that coaching staff hires will likely take place toward the end of the year, around the time when LAFC will take part in an Expansion Draft, picking up players from other clubs in the league. For now though, supporters like Francisco “Tiny” Picos of LAFC supporters group Lucky Boys are grateful for every name that gets them closer to a starting XI.
“We have enough players to complete a pass now,” he joked.