Looking back at 2020 can be a frustrating exercise for anyone. For the Black & Gold, it was a year that began much like their previous two. Early league wins. Two matches, two goals for reigning MVP and Golden Boot winner, Carlos Vela. And then the team put together another record first - after going down 2-0 to Liga MX’s Club León in the Concacaf Champions League, the Club’s first-ever international competition, LAFC stormed back at home to overcome the aggregate deficit and advance to the competition’s quarterfinal round.
However, adversity came swiftly. The Covid-19 pandemic arrived and quickly relegated sports to the sidelines. Once the team returned to play, the injuries came and the Club struggled to find consistency. While it is easy to focus on the low points of the last year, LAFC is looking to use the adversity as a launching point for 2021.
“Everything that was caused by the pandemic and all the factors that disrupted the year complicated even the most basic tasks. But we remained strong and overcame [the challenges],” said LAFC defender Eddie Segura. “We had plenty of hope as a team, but we once again came very close to reaching our goals. This is now a new year, and we need to learn from everything, including our mistakes, and put them to good use. It’s not good enough to simply talk about it, we need to act on it so things can continue improving.”
The struggle last year was real, but as the squad reports to training camp on March 8, it returns almost all of the key members from a roster that became the first-ever team from MLS to defeat three Liga MX clubs en route to the Concacaf Champions League Finals. In the last three regular seasons of Major League soccer - no team has won more games, earned more points, or scored more goals. Last year, LAFC also became the first Club to feature back-to-back Golden Boot winners after Carlos Vela took the 2019 crown and Diego Rossi upped his game to take it in 2020. You guessed it, they’re back too, and looking for more.
Now that is what you call momentum.
Additionally, LAFC was busy at work this offseason, adding pieces and strengthening positions of need. LAFC added U.S. National Team forward and 2018 MLS Rookie of the Year Corey Baird, Korean National Team defender Kim Moon-hwan, and defensive depth in Canadian National Team player Raheem Edwards and U.S. Under-21 National Team prospect Marco Farfan.
“It's always exciting when new guys come in. They add a different personality to the team and I just think there's some good pieces that we're hoping can pick up the ideas quickly so that we can really hit the ground running,” said LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. “I'm excited to see what they can do in training camp and I'm excited to see what they can do this season.”
The team began reporting to the LAFC Performance Center last week for voluntary workouts in advance of the March 8 official training camp start, and the mood was high. The atmosphere was buzzing, but there is a seriousness in the air as well.
“The adversity from last year prepared us to be ready for anything, in all honesty. Whether it’s a bubble, a game being changed, whether it’s not playing or being able to come into our facility,” said veteran LAFC Defender Jordan Harvey. “So much was thrown at us at different times that it just kept us on our toes, and I think that created a stronger mentality. Guys built character from that and I think will carry that into next year. There are going to be obstacles. We know that, but will be better prepared for them.”
Aside from the excitement around the players returning to the field, the players are looking forward to the day when fans will be allowed to once again pack Banc of California Stadium.
“The moment that we're able to play in front of our fans is going to be a huge weight off of all of our shoulders. I think it's going to be a huge celebration just to get on the field, just to be in front of them. I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” said Harvey. “It's going to be very special and I think it'll be similar to the opening of Banc of California Stadium. It's been hard times for a lot of people, for our fans, our city, and the world. To have a space where you can enjoy yourself and come together will be an awesome celebration.”
We’re all looking forward to that day, and the journey starts today.