BACK IN L.A.
LAFC returned to the training field in Los Angeles on Thursday and Friday, getting back to work for the first time since the Club’s difficult defeat in the MLS Is Back Tournament quarterfinals to Orlando City on July 31.
“First, we’re still disappointed,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said after a spirited training session on Friday.
Upon return to L.A., the players and staff had four days off to relax and recharge before getting back to preparing for the restart of the regular season.
‘We talked when we got back from Orlando that the next phase is a really important part of our season,” Bradley said. “We’ve played five league games so the next games will really go a long way towards the final push.”
Bradley has said the coaching staff is going to focus on working individually with players to get them ready for the rigors of what comes next.
“Our ability to take lessons from Orlando will be important,” Bradley said. “It is now a time of year where helping guys improve becomes a big part of the team growing.”
Despite giving up a late goal and bowing out of the tournament early to Orlando on penalty kicks, LAFC enjoyed some highlights throughout and proved to still be one of the most dangerous squads in MLS.
“We had some fantastic moments,” LAFC Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager John Thorrington said. “We had two great victories against the Galaxy and Seattle and there were particular moments in both of those games that showed exactly what we are capable of. Then there were moments that showed we still need to work on becoming a complete and better team. Bob and the staff and the team and all of us are hard at work at identifying those areas and rectifying the mistakes to make sure we don’t leave another tournament disappointed like we are now.”
LAFC star and 2019 MLS Best XI midfielder Eduard Atuesta enjoyed a strong MLS Is Back Tournament. The young Colombian continued his dominance in the middle of the field, and emerged as a true leader on and off the pitch for the Black & Gold.
His tournament was cut a little bit short, as he exited in the 81st minute due to a foot injury suffered in a collision with teammate Dejan Jaković.
Atuesta has not returned to training due to the injury, and Bradley said the timeline for his return is not yet determined. There is good news, however.
“It does not seem like this is something that is going to keep him out a long time,” Bradley said. “He took a good shot. At the moment he is not in full training, but we are confident that he can heal quickly and he will do a little more each week. We are all very relived that there was nothing major when we took a look at the scans and MRI.”
When Mark-Anthony Kaye signed with LAFC on Feb. 5, 2018, a month before the first match in Club history, he was an unknown, but promising talent in the eyes of Los Angeles sports fans.
Just two years removed from playing for Louisville City FC, Kaye can call himself an MLS All-Star, key member of the Canadian National Team, veteran and now – LAFC captain.
With MLS MVP and regular captain Carlos Vela not participating in the MLS Is Back Tournament, Kaye wore the captain’s armband throughout the tournament – and continued his emergence as a prominent voice of the team.
“I’ve always wanted to be a leader in the locker room,” Kaye said. “Getting the captain’s armband was a nice gesture of the trust the coaching staff have in me. It just heightened my responsibility in the group. It’s obviously a great honor – there haven’t been many captains in this club’s history – so to be one of them in a time like this is a great experience.”
Kaye joins Laurent Ciman, Jordan Harvey and Carlos Vela as players who have worn the captains armband so far in LAFC history.
PROUD OF THE PROCESS
With LAFC returning to the training field in L.A. after three weeks in the “bubble” in Orlando, Thorrington remains extremely proud of the way the Club has continued to remain focused on playing football, while also continuing to be diligent and adhere to strict league and team protocols regarding the pandemic.
“We are so proud of how the players and staff have adjusted to the new normal,” Thorrington said. “I think part of that is because they love to be back at work and playing and training.”
“Guys did a good job considering the circumstances,” Kaye said. “It was tough leaving your family and going away for a long time like that.”
GETTING BACK IN THE SWING OF THINGS
John Thorrington had his priorities once he returned to Los Angeles after LAFC’s extensive time at the MLS Is Back Tournament. After spending time with his family, the Southern California native made sure to check two things off his list immediately – getting back into the water on his surfboard and then grabbing some tacos on his first day back.
“I surfed first and then came up for a margarita and tacos,” Thorrington said.
It was a difficult late goal to allow – but did you know that when Joao Moutinho scored for Orlando in the 90th minute to tie the quarterfinal match at 1-1, it was the first time LAFC had allowed a goal in the 90th minute since Jozy Altidore scored late on Sept. 1, 2018.
In their knockout round defeat of the Seattle Sounders on July 27, LAFC held Seattle to just one shot in the first half. It was just the second time since the start of the 2018 season that Seattle had not had more than two shots on goal before halftime.