The first days of training camp for LAFC are in the rearview mirror, and the buzz around the LAFC Training Facility is clear. Most of the squad is back from a year when LAFC showed that when fully healthy, they almost became the first-ever MLS club to take first place in the Concacaf Champions League.
The Black & Gold returns for 2021 at full strength and primed to continue building on the success of the first three seasons in Club history.
“Everybody's excited,” said LAFC Head Coach Bob Bradley. “We were really lucky that with the Concacaf Champions League that we finished our season – it was a disappointing result, but we went all the way through to basically Christmas. So, we didn't have a crazy long offseason, but as we were going to the latter parts of January and through February, it felt really weird that we weren't training yet.”
2020 was a difficult year across the board, but after ending last year’s season on a high note, the players couldn’t be more excited about starting the year off right and keeping the momentum moving forward.
“Really excited to get back in. Considering how last year went on and off the field, I think to be able to start the 2021 season with good weather, a good group of guys, it's exciting,” said LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. “We're really looking forward to getting on top where we were in 2019. So, there's a lot of motivation and determination within the group to start training camp on the right foot.”
“I’m very happy to be back with my teammates and friends. I’m reunited with my family because that’s what my teammates have become,” said LAFC defender Eddie Segura. “I’m thrilled and eager to start working towards all our goals of the year. We’re going to work hard, and I hope we can have the opportunity to celebrate together with our supporters.”
The Missing Piece(s)?
The Black & Gold return almost all of their key players that stormed to the Concacaf Champions League Finals at the end of a tumultuous 2020 and added even more depth to the squad. Offseason additions include: 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 early to talk about the new players, but you can tell there’s a lot of quality,” said LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta. “We’ll have to support them so they can adapt quickly and be able to contribute to the group. That way we can be in a position to have another great season.”
Consistency is Key
A major focus for LAFC moving into this year is staying consistent from game to game and returning to the team that everyone in the league feared matching up with in 2019.
“We try to pick up on things that we've worked on in the past. We think that we continue to get better as a team. We've had moments of success, but we still believe there's more there,” said Bradley. We need to be more consistent and you're constantly trying to find ways to make a team better.”
“I think in 2020 we were consistently inconsistent,” said LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye. “We want to get back to that day-in-day-out putting in good performances. Being that team that's tough to deal with. Being competitive every match and really going out there and being the protagonists. This year is going to be exciting and we're looking forward to coming back.”
While it will take some time to see how the new players fare in the LAFC system, the added competition sets the stage for heightened training sessions and challenges for everyone to raise their game.
“We're always looking to find good pieces to challenge guys. I think the depth in the whole team creates competition and we're excited about that,” said Bradley. “We’re trying always to get better. The more competition that goes on every day, the better training is, the way guys push each other for time on the field, that happens in really good teams. We’re trying to continue to push forward in that direction.”
“I feel that [competition within the group] is incredibly important. It’s a long season with a lot of games and injuries. As much as it’s a competition, especially in specific positions, it’s always good to have quality players that can at times be great substitutes,” added Atuesta. “I think [a deep roster] is just as crucial and what separates the best teams is when you do have those injuries, red cards or just physical exhaustions, and you have players that can come on the field in good shape and in good form.”