2020 Season Preview: LAFC

Statistically the best team in MLS regular-season history… how can LAFC possibly improve in 2020?

The obvious answer is by winning MLS Cup and avenging the shock defeat at home to the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Final last year. But LAFC will not be taking their eye off the Supporters’ Shield prize. And who would bet against Bob Bradley’s men taking home all the prizes in 2020?

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 72 points (21W-4L-9D), 1st in West / 1st overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in Western Conf. Championship (vs. Seattle Sounders)
  • U.S. Open Cup: Eliminated in QFs (vs. Portland Timbers)

Star players

  • Carlos Vela — The best team in regular-season history was led by a player putting up numbers previously unheard of in MLS. Thirty-four goals and 15 assists may never be matched, but if anyone can it’s Vela.
  • Diego Rossi — While many expected the prodigious Uruguayan to be snapped up by a European giant in the offseason, the No. 1 in MLSsoccer.com’s 22 Under 22 2019 ranking looks set to be showcasing his talents in LA for at least a little longer.  
  • Eduard Atuesta — While Vela stole the show, Atuesta's presence at the heart of the midfield, showcasing both his defensive awareness and passing acumen, was invaluable and earned him an MLS Best XI nod.

Extratime Analysis: LAFC

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Francisco Ginella — A smart, silky central midfielder, in the Uruguay U-20 international LAFC already appear to have already secured a replacement should Atuesta be moved on for big money.
  • IN: Jose Cifuentes — Yet another highly touted young South American who looks to have a big future, the defensive midfielder recently competed for Ecuador in Olympic qualifying.
  • IN: Kenneth Vermeer — It may not have got a huge amount of attention, but LAFC’s signing of the veteran Dutch international goalkeeper from Feyenoord looks a shrewd piece of business.
  • OUT: Walker Zimmerman — A U.S. international and a stalwart for LAFC at the heart of the defense for the past two years, Zimmerman's blockbuster trade to Nashville last week came as a shock to many.
  • OUT: Tyler Miller — After being the man between the posts for LAFC’s first two seasons in the league, Miller’s rights were traded to Minnesota United.
  • OUT: Steven Beitashour — The ever-consistent right-back’s contract expired following two years and 56 appearances for LAFC.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (2): Pablo Sisniega, Kenneth Vermeer
  • Defenders (7): Tristan Blackmon, Mohamed El-Munir, Jordan Harvey, Dejan Jakovic, Diego Palacios, Eddie Segura, Danilo Silva
  • Midfielders (7): Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing, Jose Cifuentes, Bryce Duke, Francisco Ginella, Alejandro Guido, Mark-Anthony Kaye
  • Forwards (7): Adama Diomande, Danny Musovski, Adrien Perez, Brian Rodriguez, Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Bradley Wright-Phillips

Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength:  In Carlos Vela they have the league’s best player. In Diego Rossi they have the league’s most productive young player, and in Brian Rodriguez they have an even younger player who most folks think is even better. In Eduard Atuesta they have the league’s best young d-mid, unless that’s Jose Cifuentes (who they also have). And Diego Palacios at LB, Eddie Segura and Tristan Blackmon at CB, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Latif Blessing in central midfield … there’s a reason this team set a new regular-season points record last year.  
  • Weakness: The Walker Zimmerman move has left them thin at the back, which is not what you want to be just months after going out of the playoffs by getting three dropped on you at home. And they have serious questions up top – one being whether any of their center forwards can be a starter in 2020, and the other being “How do you fit Vela, Rossi and Rodriguez into the same XI and get the best out of all three?”

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 2nd in West
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 2nd in West
  • Calen Carr: 1st in West
  • Charlie Davies: 1st in West
  • Matt Doyle: 1st in West
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 3rd in West
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 1st in West
Series: