LAFC fans are still awaiting their first glimpse of Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini in an MLS game, though the star duo's respective debuts could be on the horizon.
Head coach Steve Cherundolo, speaking to reporters at his Friday press conference, didn't commit to giving Bale and Chiellini their first Black & Gold minutes when meeting Nashville SC on Sunday at GEODIS Park (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). But the coach did say it's possible both could feature and that he's pleased with how they're integrating since joining the club.
“Anybody who travels is ready to get minutes," Cherundolo said. "So, how probable it is? We’ll have to see. The game will dictate that, as well as the coaches. But both are in a good spot to contribute to the group.”
LAFC made major waves when adding each global superstar in recent weeks on Targeted Allocation Money deals. Chiellini, the Juventus legend and longtime Italian national team captain, was officially announced as a newcomer on June 13. Bale, meanwhile, joined the club two weeks later from Real Madrid, making LAFC the latest stop in his decorated career that has also included stints with Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur. Neither move required a transfer fee.
Cherundolo said it's simply about fitness with the new arrivals at this point, with the club carefully bringing along the 33-year-old Bale and 37-year-old Chiellini.
"Adding new players, especially in the summer transfer window, is tricky, because these players are coming off of an offseason, so they're doing their preseason during our season," the first-year coach said. "I think it's important to understand that when integrating new players in this phase of the season. So, they are being integrated as fast as possible, but I think it's also smart to give them time."
Whether it happens on Sunday, it won't be long before Bale and Chiellini earn minutes as LAFC challenge for the Supporters' Shield, where they've been jostling with current leaders Austin FC and Eastern Conference frontrunners Philadelphia Union.
LAFC should be well-rested against Nashville, having last played in a 3-2 El Trafico win over the LA Galaxy that helped kick off Heineken Rivalry Week back on July 8. Bale watched that game from the stands, while Chiellini was an unused substitute.
"We went through this last week and then we ran out of gas a little bit in Vancouver in the third game of the week," Cherundolo said. "I'm not expecting Nashville to do that, due to their style of play, but it could be an advantage moving forward, if we are able to push the tempo."
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