Since the first day of LAFC’s inaugural training camp at UCLA in 2018, head coach Bob Bradley and his coaching staff have strived to create an environment where the Club is able to enjoy the concept of going to work and establishing their “football ideas.”
The importance of building that culture has taken on added significance now, as Bradley and LAFC continue to come together after months apart for a few short weeks of training to prepare for the MLS is Back Tournament.
“The foundation and the way we work has been laid in the first few seasons,” Bradley said. “Everybody was just so excited to get back here and get back into full training, so that part has been really good.”
The club heads to Orlando on Monday, July 6 for the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando starting on July 8 and will train on site in preparation for their first match vs. the Houston Dynamo on July 13 (5 pm PT on FS1, TUDN, ESPN Radio app and KFWB 980 AM).
In January as LAFC prepared to face Club León in the Concacaf Champions League, the Club had the benefit of several pre-season matches against MLS clubs and Uruguayan powerhouse Peñarol to hone their skills. In this condensed prep period, LAFC has no such luxury.
“We don’t have that period where we have a pre-season friendly,” Bradley said. “That makes a big difference, so we have tried to create situations in our regular training where we’ve had some 11 on 11, full field. In all those ways, I think guys are in a good way and I think we are ready to meet the next challenge.”
The first challenge LAFC players have faced is rapidly getting used to training at a high level with their teammates again.
“It has been hard actually,” LAFC defender Mohamed El-Munir said. “After almost three months of being home and not being able to work as a team, or even doing individual training the way we should do it – it has not been easy. But, this last week I think everyone is starting to feel good.”
Midfielder Latif Blessing also took some time to get back into shape.
“It has been difficult at first,” Blessing said. “After being at home, not doing that full training. When we first started my body was a little sore, but now – I feel I can run and do everything. Now I am ready.”
ROSSI RIGHT BACK AT IT
In his first two years with LAFC, Diego Rossi has quickly become known for scoring big goals. The 2019 MLS All-Star did it again in February, when his game-winning goal in the 79th minute propelled LAFC to an incredible 3-0 comeback victory over Club León in the Concacaf Champions League.
Now, Rossi is picking up where he left off – already making an impact and returning to training at a high level.
“During the lay-off, it was a real challenge to keep guys going. Our performance staff, they did an excellent job,” Bradley said. “Most guys came back in good shape, but I think Diego is the one who has set the bar the highest. He looks like he didn’t miss a beat and has been really good in training in this last stretch.”
Rossi spent much of the off-time working out at home with new teammate Pancho Ginella, who moved in with him for several weeks, and fellow Uruguyan and MMA fighter Gaston Reyno.
BRADLEY GETTING WRIGHT
LAFC forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, one of the most decorated goal-scorers in MLS history, joined LAFC in February. Wright-Phillips underwent sports hernia surgery soon after, and is now set for a return to the pitch.
“[He] has made progress,” Bradley said. “He is back in regular training. He’s not ready to play a full match, but I still think he can give us really good minutes in Orlando.”
The two-time MLS Golden Boot winner is looking to get healthy and continue his assault on the league record books, where he currently sits tied for seventh place on the MLS All-Time goal scoring list with 108 goals.
Orlando is known for many things, including Epcot Center and Mickey Mouse. No one knows better than El-Munir that the Central Florida city is also notorious for its suffocating, humid summertime weather.
The Libyan international played his first MLS season for Orlando SC, appearing in 26 games and training every day in the muggy weather in 2018. He knows that dealing with the weather will be one of several challenges during the MLS Is Back Tournament.
“The problem in Orlando is not the heat, it is that humidity,” El-Munir said. “That is hard. But, the last few weeks it has been pretty hot while training in L.A. This season has just been tough dealing with the pandemic and now we are going to go [to Orlando] and deal with [heat] for this tournament.”
El-Munir is aware of another challenge – the mental aspect of being away from family and friends while isolated with the team.
“I don’t know what to expect,” El-Munir said. “It is not going to be easy. We have a plan and I think they are managing it as best as they can. It is not going to be easy to spend all that time alone in your room and not be able to leave the hotel.”
Blessing is aware of the difficulties, but like Bradley and the rest of the team – is excited to start competitive matches.
“I want to play,” Blessing said. “Everyone is ready. People are telling me that they are ready to see me back on the field. I am excited and I know our fans want us to bring the trophy home, so we are going to play our best to try and do that.”