LOS ANGELES – If the first day at an MLS preseason camp is likened to the first day of school, the first day of training for an expansion team is the equivalent of opening a freshly built educational institution.
During construction, LAFC has looked like a great place to study.
But how does it feel to actually be there?
“I feel great,” former Real Sociedad and Arsenal attacker Carlos Vela said.
“I’m trying to work hard to make a good team and I hope soon we’ll play good football.”
Of course, before that can happen, there has to be a period of adjustment for the 14 players currently on the roster, along with the more than one dozen others that will be added to the senior, supplemental, and reserve rosters before the compliance date.
The second Designated Player in club history, 19-year-old striker Diego Rossi, contrasted his experiences with LAFC on Monday with those he’s had climbing the ranks at South American giant Peñarol.
“How they transmit the ideas and also the idea to play is different than Uruguay,” Rossi said
While Vela wore the number 10 on his shorts, Rossi adorned 9 and spoke about his first day under head coach Bob Bradley.
“[Bradley] works very hard,” Rossi said of the coach. “It’s very important to us to train hard very hard too. That way, when the match comes, we’ll be prepared to play a good game.”
Meanwhile, in what’s been a surreal week for Portuguese-born defender Joao Moutinho – who went No. 1 in Friday's SuperDraft – the excitement has continued from the MLS Combine.
“Being here with such amazing players and such an amazing coach,” Moutinho said. “I just want to learn from now on and improve my game.”
“Everybody’s excited, the veterans and the rookies,” Feilhaber said. “It’s good to see that kind of vibe. I think the first day of practice everybody understands that it might not be as clean as you want it to be but if you can see that everybody is excited to be there and wants to improve that’s a big plus.”
The first part of that learning process for many players will be as much physical as anything else. They have come far and wide, in-season with previous clubs and from MLS offseasons.
For many, life in Los Angeles will take some adjustment.
“I feel like a kid with a new toy,” said Vela, who’s still getting used to his other new job as a father. “You have everything here so I’m enjoying the city.”
Some had never been to LA until a few days ago, like Moutinho.
“The city looks great,” the top selection in last week’s MLS SuperDraft said, the excitement palpable in his voice. “I haven’t been around much, but where I’ve been looks nice.”
Others are swapping seasons and making major life moves in addition to career ones.
“Right now in Uruguay it’s summer so here feels very cold,” laughed Rossi, who recently married his girlfriend Vivian. “But in winter Uruguay is much colder so it’s OK.”
Ultimately, the first day for every player was an indication that the real work has only just begun.
“We’re barely getting our feet wet,” said Feilhaber, training on the same fields where he played his college soccer at UCLA. “You gotta give us a few more days.”