In a one-month roster-building frenzy that brought the kid they call “the future of Venezulean futbol” to LAFC, along with a 21-year-old fullback from the Mexican National Team, and the most decorated active goalkeeper in the world, the club’s re-acquisition of midfielder Eduard Atuesta may turn out to be the most momentous.
One of LAFC’s original players from its first roster in March 2018, the return of the 26-year-old Atuesta following his stint in Brazil’s premier division, represents an infusion not only of attacking quality, but of LAFC’s original DNA.
When winger Latif Blessing departed LAFC following its MLS Cup Final victory in 2022, the club was left with just one player from that original 2018 team: Carlos Vela, the club’s first and only captain. In the months before Blessing left, LAFC offered grateful goodbyes in rapid succession to OGs Mark-Anthony Kaye (July ‘21), Diego Rossi (Sept. ‘21), and Tristan Blackmon and Jordan Harvey (Dec. ‘21). Blessing and Vela were the only two original players who lifted the MLS Cup. Then it was just Vela.
While Vela’s contract status for 2024 remains undetermined, the immediate future of the midfielder who played a hand in most of Vela’s MLS-record 34 goals in 2019 is clear. Eduard Atuesta is Black & Gold.
Overnight, LAFC adds a player just reaching his prime years and who not only knows LAFC’s game model, he helped invent it. Over the club’s first four seasons, Atuesta was the constantly swiveling head in the center of the LAFC attack, winning duels then building from the back, suddenly reappearing in dangerous areas with the ball at his feet, sending through balls that only the special ones can see.
Atuesta was just 20 years old when he arrived at LAFC on the eve of the 2018 season. Truth be told, it was a bit of a shotgun wedding. Club co-president and General Manager John Thorrington had loved scouting the teenage midfielder who ran the show for Independiente Medellin of Colombia’s top tier; Thorrington enjoyed the experience of evaluating Atuesta because watching him play was entertainment. As LAFC’s inaugural season approached, the long and difficult process of building an expansion roster from scratch had left Thorrington with a few holes in his team, particularly in central midfield. So he pulled the trigger on an unheralded Colombian playmaker. The first game in LAFC history was less than a week away.
“We’ve monitored him at both the league and international level,” Thorrington said at the time, “and we believe he has all the right attributes to have an immediate impact with our group.”
Atuesta’s minutes in the first few games of that inaugural 2018 season looked like this: 22, 19, 15, 26 … then 73, 89, followed by a whole lot of 90s. At the end of that first season, LAFC earned a playoff bid and Atuesta was named to MLS’ 22-Under-22 list.
In 2019 he hardly left the field. It’s no coincidence that LAFC set the MLS record for single-season goals and points that year. Atuesta appeared in 30 MLS matches in 2019, averaging 88 minutes in those games. He was named to MLS’ Best XI roster then ascended to MLS All-Star status in 2021.
When Atuesta left LAFC for legendary Brazilian side Palmeiras that summer, he ranked second in LAFC history in assists (23) and third in minutes played (7,593). He added seven regular-season goals, but was at his best when it mattered most, finding the back of the net twice in four MLS playoff appearances.
LAFC often refers to players who depart the club for other opportunities as being Part of our History. Eduard Atuesta – nicknamed El Profe (The Teacher) during his previous stint in LA because of the lessons he taught to teammates and foes alike about the magic of unselfish football – is the first player to ever reverse that status and become Part of our Destiny.
Single Match Tickets On Sale Now
For the fifth year in a row, LAFC will kick off its MLS season with a home game. The Seattle Sounders FC visit BMO Stadium on Saturday, February 24.