STOP START SEASON
The 2020 MLS season has been unique, with obviously unusual gaps in between games due to the pandemic. The season restarts again on Saturday, with LAFC hosting the Galaxy at Banc of California Stadium at 3pm with no fans in attendance. It has been a difficult schedule and rhythm to handle, but LAFC head coach Bob Bradley has attempted to manage it and get the Black & Gold ready to continue the regular season and hopefully remain unbeaten.
“These are different times,” Bradley said. “Obviously everyone’s lives are challenged in different ways. For us the start, stop, start stop of the season has been difficult. But we are excited to get going with the games again.”
It has been nearly six months since LAFC stormed back to defeat Mexico’s Club Leon in the Concacaf Champions League, but Bradley still takes inspiration from that performance to show just how good this version of the Black & Gold can be.
“I think we are in a really good way,” Bradley said about the overall outlook of his team as it prepares for the Galaxy. “It seems so long ago, but we played such a good game against Leon. We pushed the game and didn’t give up many chances. Then we went to Orlando and even without playing for so many months, we pushed the tempo and created a lot of chances there. So we see it. Of course in the process there are different situations and reactions that we will continue to improve upon.”
Bradley told the media he was encouraged with the way the players emerged from the stress of playing multiple games in a condensed period at the MLS Is Back Tournament. Adrian Perez, who showed so much promise during the preseason but was forced to miss the matches in Orlando due to a right hamstring strain is back to training and available to return to action.
Eduard Atuesta, who suffered a right foot injury late in LAFC’s loss to Orlando City in the quarterfinals continues to recover and is expected to miss the match vs. the Galaxy.
“Eduard is making progress,” Bradley said. “He is able to do more weight-bearing activities, and we are hopeful he can now speed things up in his recovery. We miss having him around every day in training, but we just have to be careful because coming back from a foot injury can be tricky.”
With Atuesta out, Bradley has options in the midfield such as Pancho Ginella, who put together some strong performances in Orlando, and Jose Cifuentes.
Andy Najar, who made his LAFC debut at the MLS Is Back Tournament, against Portland coming on in the 67th minute, continues his slow recovery from a major knee injury. His appearance vs. Portland was the first competitive game for Najar in over a year since he suffered a knee injury on June 5, 2019 in a friendly for Honduras vs. Paraguay. It was Najar’s first Club appearance since May 16, 2019 when he played for Belgian’s RSC Anderlecht.
“Andy was out pretty much a full year,” Bradley said. “He continues to come back, but there have been some minor setbacks that have caused him to miss a training here and there. We must be patient, whenever a players is out for that long with a major surgery, this is normal. I think he fits in really well, he’s an excellent guy, but he is not quite ready.”
CARLOS IS BACK
2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela is back – making his return to the field after missing the entire MLS Is Back Tournament to remain in Los Angeles with his family and pregnant wife. The Black & Gold didn’t totally miss him – as Diego Rossi stepped up to secure the Golden Boot of the tournament and LAFC exploded on offense to lead the league in goals.
Even so, Bradley and the team are excited to have their MVP back on the field.
“Carlos is doing great,” Bradley said “He gets so much credit for how he has worked hard while we were away. He wanted to be back with the team, and you could tell from the first day back how much it meant to him. He is really motivated for this game.”
“We are just so happy to have Carlos back,” LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing said.