PLAYER RETURN FROM INTERNATIONAL QUALIFIERS
Over the span of qualifying competition, LAFC has witnessed players earn spots on their perspective country rosters, such as Kellyn Acosta (USA), Maxime Crépeau (Canada), Doneil Henry (Canada), José Cifuentes (Ecuador), Diego Palacios (Ecuador), and Brian Rodríguez (Uruguay).
“We’re ecstatic to see several of our players qualify for the World Cup, it’s good for LAFC and for the players individually,” stated Head Coach Steve Cherundolo. “I know from personal experience it’s a memory you will cherish for the rest of your life.”
Henry, the athletic center back, who is no stranger to international play, shared thoughts on the honor to represent Canada.
“It’s an amazing feeling, since I’ve been here for the dark times with the national team,” said Henry. “It’s a lot of emotions in understanding the history of Canada in the World Cup, and we are fighting together to change the stereotypes of Canadian Football.”
Their Black & Gold teammates couldn’t be more excited for the opportunity and the position of the inclusion of World Cup bound players puts the club in.
“The attitude here now is we all want to fight for a final spot on the roster of our qualifying national teams,” said LAFC defender Jesús Murillo. “So it’s always going to benefit the team and create a higher level of competition, as everyone will be at their best not only with the club but at the national level.”
Below is a brief World Cup history on the players named to provisional squads:
Kellyn Acosta – United States
Born and raised in Plano, TX, Acosta has made numerous qualifying appearances for the USA Men’s Team, but this will be his first World Cup. He played in seven of eight FIFA World Cup Qualifying matches in the current cycle, and also
represented the team in the World Cup Qualifying Semifinal Round in 2016, followed by an appearance in five World Cup qualifiers in 2017.
Maxime Crépeau – Canada
Crépeau is a Canadian national team goalkeeper who developed through the Montreal Impact Academy, later acquired by Whitecaps FC in December 2018 before joining LAFC prior to the start of the 2022 season.
Born and raised in Quebec, Crépeau earned his first cap for the Canadian National Team in February, 2016 in a friendly against the United States. This will be his first World Cup appearance. This is Canada’s first World Cup qualification since 1986.
Doneil Henry – Canada
Henry is a Canadian center back that will make his first World Cup appearance with the Canadian National team.
He earned a U-20 Canadian Player of the Year award, as well as made 20 starts in 22 appearances for the national team. This is Canada’s first World Cup qualification since 1986.
José Cifuentes – Ecuador
Cifuentes, originally from Esmeraldas, Ecuador, would be making his first trip to the World Cup as well.
He made a senior national team appearance in 2019 in a friendly match with Peru.
Diego Palacios – Ecuador
Palacios, originally form Guayaquil, Ecuador, made six appearances for the Senior National Team in 2020.
If selected to the roster, this would be his first World Cup appearance after Ecuador qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup
Brian Rodríguez – Uruguay
One of the most promising young players in MLS, Rodriguez appeared in 11 World Cup Qualifying matches for Uruguay in this cycle, making eight starts and registering one assist.
If added to the final roster, this would be Rodriguez’s World Cup debut.
Speaking of history, midfielder Kellyn Acosta played his 200th regular season game of his MLS career against Vancouver, making him the 181st player in MLS history to play in 200 games.
LAFC has only allowed two goals in their four matches, which is the second-best total in the league, trailing only the Chicago Fire.
LAFC TRAVELS TO ORLANDO
LAFC travels to face Orlando City on Saturday, April 2, which marks the first time the team will meet since their hard-fought battle in the Quarterfinals of the MLS Is Back Tournament in 2020. The match was decided in a penalty shootout, giving the Lions the slight edger over the Black & Gold.
With the focus returning to MLS play, LAFC head Coach Steve Cherundolo is excited to get his team back and focused on the regular season.
“We are very excited to get back into MLS business on Saturday against Orlando,” Cherundolo said. “A little slow getting everyone back from their national teams, but they know our way of doing things and it should be easy for players to shift back into focus.”
Everyone is set to travel to Orlando, including the five players who were on international duty. Looking ahead to their match with Orlando City, LAFC has been sharpening their skills in training.
“I think we are in a very good spot, but never satisfied,” added Cherundolo. “This week we focused more on our creativity and building offensive patterns, while putting our players in position by creating chances.”
The Lions are coming off a draw with the Portland Timbers, the same team LAFC tied on March 6 in the second game of the season
LAFC plans to continue capitalizing on defense with only allowing two goals in four matches.
“Defensively, we want to correct our mistakes that came from last season,” said Murillo. “Being strong defensively meaning being in position well, being close to our mark, while being attentive and communicative with our players in front of us.”
LAFC has had to deal with a few key injuries coming into the 2022 season, including two players who continue to recover from injures suffered last year. Defender Eddie Segura continues to recover from a torn ACL in his right knee that happened in July of 2021.
“We try not to put long term injuries on a timetable,” Cherundolo said. “Eddie is doing fantastic; we love what we see, he’s had a few short stints with our team training and is getting close.”
Franco Escobar suffered a left calf injury due March 6 vs. Portland and has not returned to the field, but Cherundolo said he is continuing to improve and will hopefully be ready for action soon.
“He’s moving along and is on schedule but still questionable for Orlando.” Cherundolo said. “We will reevaluate and make a final decision for the weekend.”
BLACK AND GOLD UNBEATEN
LAFC remains unbeaten after the first four matches of the 2022 MLS season with a 3-0-1 record, ahead of their match with Orlando City on Saturday, April 2. Their last victory comes after defeating Vancouver FC, 3-1, with a huge performance from Ryan Hollingshead and Carlos Vela.
Hollingshead was the key factor in the win over Vancouver FC, scoring his first two goals of the season to help LAFC remain unbeaten. This was Hollingshead first multi-goal game of his career.
“It is a good feeling,” stated Ryan Hollingshead. “As a defender, I am not in goal-scoring opportunities enough to get braces very often, but I do sneak some goals in there. Every year I am in the 4 to 5 goal range, which I love but let’s double it up this year.”
Carlos Vela also made an impact in the victory, with an assist to Hollingshead and a goal to help the Black and Gold take a 2-1 edge in early in the match. He picked up his fourth goal and first assist on the season.
LAFC has combined for a total of 10 points in four games, which is tied for the most in cCub history at this point in a season, equaling the team’s total from its record-breaking 2019 campaign.