LOS ANGELES – A bearded gang has infiltrated LAFC.
Three players, all north of 30, are throwing caution into the wind and letting their facial hair grow free.
Speaking with MLSsoccer.com on Thursday, this trio of veterans didn’t explicitly say these were rally beards, but it’s not a stretch based on how well the Black & Gold are playing.
It’s not hard to see why the LAFC right back — who has also recently launched the Back-to-Back podcast with his left-sided counterpart Harvey in addition to his Beita Time video interview show — is finding so much pleasure with his club.
At the moment, LAFC sit at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings, tied for the least goals conceded in the league, and with 25 goals for, they have triple the goal differential of their closest Western Conference opponents.
“I’ve been part of some special teams where we’ve won things and it’s always fun when you win,” said Beitashour, who lifted the 2017 MLS Cup with Toronto FC and the 2012 Shield with San Jose. “This season is probably the most fun that I’ve had.”
Harvey called the entire experience of coming to LAFC a “jolt” for him at this stage of his career.
“MLS Cup is a realistic expectation. Other teams, maybe you’d say it because that’s just the goal that everybody wants, but is it realistic? Maybe not. This team, it’s realistic.”
A big part of that, according to Nguyen, is how well they’ve been able to maintain and accelerate the momentum gained during the club’s record-breaking 2018 expansion season.
“The transition from the first year to the second year was seamless,” the former New England Revolution playmaker said. “I find that, probably the hardest thing to do [in MLS].”
And what makes this 2019 LAFC group so fun to be a part of and so successful on the field?
“A more detail-oriented approach to everything we do,” said Harvey, who feels even with over 300 MLS appearances, he’s still improving under coach Bob Bradley’s tutelage.
“Everything we do is to reach a certain goal or certain style of play and you can constantly get better with the different nuances, whether it be passing on the ground, or what touch to do. The details are what make up everything.”
Beitashour saw glimpses of this detail-driven focus in one past MLS experience in particular.
“I got a small taste of it when I was in Toronto with Michael [Bradley],” Beitashour said. “He’s so detail-oriented, but Bob’s at another level because obviously he’s been coaching for so long. It’s every position, whether it’s the midfielders, the forwards, the defenders, and he wants specific details.”
All three players insist that it wasn’t just the elder Bradley who is obsessed with the details at LAFC – it’s a methodology that permeates the technical staff, the front office, all the way down to the medical staff.
“They know exactly how long training is supposed to be tomorrow and there is just so much attention to detail that people just look past,” Beitashour said. “They have so much control, the medical staff does, over our training loads, where in the past, other teams maybe don’t look into that or consider it.”
Nguyen, who himself just returned from injury, also sees the value in LAFC being detail-driven across the board.
“Recovering from injuries, knowing how hard to push you, and all these numbers that they’re working with it, it’s great,” he said.
All the attention to detail, all the extra work doesn’t feel grueling when it all comes together on the field. In that way, it’s as effective as it is fun.
“I enjoy my football so much more playing with these guys and under Bob with this style of play. It’s not only fun to play with them in the games, but to be able to play with guys with similar football ideas and being able to make plays and [teammates] already can read the plays you’re trying to make,” said Nguyen. “It makes coming to work here enjoyable.”