LAFC enters its third matchup of 2020 against the Galaxy on Sunday with two of its top players on the sidelines. 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela remains sidelined with a knee injury, and 2019 MLS Best XI midfielder Eduard Atuesta will continue to sit out due to a right foot injury suffered in the quarterfinals of the MLS Is Back Tournament.
There is some good news on the horizon, however, as Atuesta was back on the field for the first time participating in limited training on Friday.
“He felt good,” LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said. “He still needs time but I think we were all excited to get back to have Eduard on the field. He handled a lot of balls and made a lot of good passes and good touches, so that was great.”
Vela also returned to the field, continuing his rehabilitation with some light jogging in another step that shows he is progressing.
“That’s a positive sign,” Bradley said. “I’m sure he is still weeks away from getting back for games, but the first step is just getting back into some running and we’re all excited to see him on the field also.”
Pablo Sisniega made his third start of the season vs. the Earthquakes on Sunday, and LAFC head coach Bob Bradley said Sisniega will start again against the Galaxy – and for the foreseeable future. In two seasons, Sisniega is now 5-2-2 in nine MLS starts, and will get an opportunity after Kenneth Vermeer has gone 1-2-2 in his five regular season starts this season since joining the Club in January from Holland’s Feyenoord.
After appearing in spot duty the last two years, Bradley let the young goalkeeper know that this time, the starting job is essentially his for now.
“I wanted him to know that this is not a one game trial,” Bradley said. “We felt that he’s made progress.”
After Sisniega appeared in two games in Orlando, Vermeer was given the start for the LAFC’s final two matches in the knockout round, but Bradley was clear with Sisniega what he wanted to see from him the next time he was on the field.
“The discussion that Pablo and I had was that when he gets the next opportunity, he must take it in a strong way,” Bradley said. “I told him that ‘You must show everybody, now it is your time.’”
Sisniega, who joined LAFC from Spain’s Real Sociedad, is ready for the challenge.
“I’m just going to keep trying to do what I’m doing,” Sisniega said. “I want to be a leader from the back and really help out the team.”
MUSOVKSI CELEBRATES HIS FIRST
LAFC forward Danny Musovski recorded his first career MLS goal Sunday vs. San Jose in the 83rd minute. The Las Vegas native has slowly been working his way into more minutes off the bench for the Black & Gold, culminating in a splendid shot from 22 yards out that put the finishing touches on the LAFC win.
“Danny has been making progress,” Bradley said. “There is a lot that we throw at him every day. It was a great finish, and we continue to try and push him and see if we can get him to a better level. We’re pleased in the way he is working and listening.”
It was that much sweeter for Musovski to score against his former team. The 24-year-old was originally drafted by San Jose with the 30th pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft out of UNLV, but never appeared for them. He did play 40 games for the Quakes USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC before signing with LAFC in December, 2019.
“It always helps to score as a forward,” Musovski said. “It helps your confidence. But, I’m just trying to get better each and every day in training and listening to the feedback that the coaches give me.”
After the game, as he walked out of Banc of California Stadium with the game ball from his first goal, Musovski heard from a lot of those former coaches amongst other well wishes.
“It was just an overflow of love from my friends and family and old coaches,” Musovski said about first looking at his phone postgame. “There were coaches that I have known since I was a little kid reaching out. I got a lot of love from the people who are close to me, so that meant a lot to me. It was a special moment for me.”
DEFENSE LOOKING TO LOCK IN ON SET PIECES
The LAFC defense has been under the microscope in 2020, as the Black & Gold have given up 16 goals so far, including six in their last three games. After only allowing a league low 37 goals last year en route to the Supporter’s Shield, this year a revamped unit has struggled at times as only two other teams (Portland and San Jose) have given up more goals. On Wednesday vs. San Jose, the defense was mere seconds away from recording their second regular season shutout of 2020 before a late Quakes goal ruined it to make the score 5-1.
“Anyone who saw my reaction [to that late goal] knows that it was important to get the shutout,” Bradley said. “I talked to the guys starting at about 75 minutes left reminding them about that, but we lost focus a little bit at the very end of the game. Even after a playing a very good game, you can’t shut off – even at the very end because then you’re going to pay the price and that has got to be the focus for us.”
Bradley made some adjustments to the backline, moving Tristan Blackmon to center back to team up with Eddie Segura and playing the versatile Latif Blessing on the right side of defense.
“It was important that we got Tristan to play centerback [on Sunday],” Bradley said. “I think he’s more comfortable there, I’m very pleased with the way he played. Tristan took responsibility, moved the ball up the field and made some good plays.”
Throughout the season, LAFC has given up key goals on set pieces, something Bradley said the team continues to focus on.
“We continue to work on details with set piece defending,” Bradley said. “You can’t just judge it on one game, I think overall that we’ve always done a good job defending corners, but that said we have lost our ideas a little bit in certain situations and we had to refocus. We’re going to continue to do that.”