John Thorrington at LAFC academy training
LAFC

Bogert: Inside the Andre Horta transfer and how LAFC will fill open DP slot

Two moments most distinctly stand out from Andre Horta's infamous LAFC debut against the LA Galaxy

The one you're probably thinking of was his momentary lapse in concentration, a miscued back pass dooming LAFC to another improbable collapse in El Trafico, throwing (er, passing) away another multi-goal lead against their rivals that helped turn a 2-0 lead into a 2-2 draw. For a young player who had been riding confidence, though carried high expectations created by what was then a top-10 transfer fee in league history, it was a nightmare start in an impressionable moment. Still, time remained to compensate and turn the game around. 

That's when the second moment happened, which is a mere footnote to the match and spoke to the now-departed Horta's time with the club. Horta took aim from 22 yards out, his shot destined for the bottom corner. For a second, it was a microcosm of why he was so highly valued in the first place, but the ball, cruelly, shook the inside of the post, hit with such venom that it bounced to the edge of the penalty box. The Galaxy cleared their lines. 

Perhaps things would have been different for the Portuguese midfielder had fate been on his side. It was the first data point as to why the Designated Player didn't work out for LAFC, though he can still contribute to the club from afar. Now transferred to SC Braga in Portugal – the club where the 22-year-old enjoyed his best spell as a professional – LAFC retains 50 percent ownership in the player, as originally reported by The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal. Should Braga sell Horta down the road, LAFC will receive half the transfer fee. 

“What I can say about our priorities in negotiation is that we think Andre is an incredibly talented player [and] our owners invested heavily in a talent we think will appreciate in value," executive vice president of soccer operations and general manager John Thorrington said to MLSsoccer.com on Friday. "Protecting our owners' investment in the upside that we think is very likely was critical for us to agree to a deal. We ended up with what I think is a good deal for Braga, a good deal for LAFC and a good deal for Andre.” 

Thorrington said that he doesn't view the transfer as an admission of defeat on a player from whom they expected more, but a positive reflection of the squad as a whole. Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta and Latif Blessing have been nearly infallible in central midfield, suffocating in their pressure and efficient in their chance creation, that Horta was limited to just two starts this season. In all, Horta made just 15 appearances for LAFC and failed to score or assist.

“There are a number of components," Thorrington said when asked why the move didn't work as planned. "What I can say is none of these decisions are made flippantly. With Andre, it was the same as with Carlos (Vela), Diego (Rossi), Eduard (Atuesta), Eddie (Segura)—we have a thorough process. You do so to increase the probability of being right. In fact, the process with Andre was probably even more diligent than the others, but it’s not an exact science. I do want to stress in large part his impact was lessened because of the great impact of the other players.”

With LAFC freeing up a DP slot, the rumor mill has revved up, producing a cascade of players linked with the club ranging from completely baseless to at-least-plausible. 

“The fun that you have on Twitter," Thorrington deadpanned regarding transfer rumors, "it’s not so much fun when it comes to my phone.”

What's next?

John Thorrington watches on | Courtesy of LAFC

The club hasn't filtered down precisely how they'll utilize the vacant DP slot just yet, though given that their last two DPs were in their young 20s (Rossi and Horta), it would be reasonable to expect a similar course of action.

"Our model and our strength of infrastructure with Bob [Bradley] and the technical staff … the more young players we can get to improve and appreciate the asset value, that’s a huge part of our model and we’re certainly on the hunt for those types of player," Thorrington said. "We will stay disciplined in how our team plays; it’s a very demanding style. Usually that lends itself to younger players and we’ve had good success given the quality of our staff.”

But that doesn't mean it's a given: the club isn't averse to signing a star in his prime or towards the end of it, though only under the right circumstances. 

"There is a lot of inbound interest from very tempting superstar-type players that we always have to consider," Thorrington said. "We haven’t made a decision on age, but we are strategically disciplined. We have said no to big-name superstars because they didn’t quite fit with what we were doing. I feel in a privileged position to be able to say no to some of these very tempting targets."

Though Thorrington declined to discuss reports linking Italian midfielder Daniele De Rossi with a move to LAFC, a source close to the club made clear that reports are inaccurate.

LAFC is in an advantageous position. The way they've played this season, there isn't much pressure to immediately strike a deal. Sitting atop the Supporters' Shield standings, on pace to shatter the league record for most points in a season, LAFC doesn't have a glaring need to fulfill. 

“It would be tempting to think that way, but we don’t," Thorrington said. "Complacency is like a disease. We’ve identified areas where we think we can strengthen. We’re not desperate. That will enable us to make better decisions, so if the right opportunity comes up economically and the right fit on the field, we have managed our spend in such a way that we’ll have the ability to move."

Thorrington added that it's "very possible" LAFC sign a DP this summer, but won't back himself into make any guarantees. 

"Thankfully, we’re not in a position where we’re desperate," Thorrington said. "We will be very thoughtful in what we bring into what we feel is a very competitive group.”

One thing is clear for whoever signs as LAFC's third DP: Getting into the team will be no easy task.


LIVE YOUR COLORS: Download the free MLS app - The official MLS app gets a major update for 2019, making it easier than ever to keep up with your favorite club, check standings, watch videos and much more.