Training Report

Notes from Training | Matchday 10

An uncommon opponent but plenty of familiar faces will reunite Saturday as LAFC hosts New York at BMO Stadium

20240403 LAFC Training Long Palencia

The 2024 regular season is still young, but LAFC’s meeting with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. PT; Apple TV MLS Season Pass) carries a bit more meaning than the usual mid-April MLS clash.

The Red Bulls (4W-1L-3D) are currently in third place in the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings, which makes Saturday’s match just the seventh time since Steve Cherundolo became LAFC’s head coach (prior to the 2022 season) that the Black & Gold have played a regular-season opponent ranked in the Top 5.

LAFC holds a 1W-2L-3D record in those matches, three of which were played on the road.In May 2022, LAFC faced the Philadelphia Union (third in the Supporters’ Shield standings at the time) and came away with a 2-2 draw in Los Angeles. A few days later, third-place Austin came to LA and won, 2-1. Austin was still in the Top 5 when the Verde defeated LAFC in Texas, 4-1, that August. Notably, LAFC would win both of its playoff rematches against those two teams, beating Austin 3-0 in the Western Conference final, and Philadelphia on penalty kicks in the MLS Cup final.

In the middle of their grueling 2023 campaign, the Black & Gold defeated St. Louis CITY SC (third in the Shield race) 3-0 at BMO Stadium, then drew with St. Louis, 0-0, in September (when STL was still third). Three days later LAFC was in Philadelphia, where they produced the same 0-0 result against the fifth-place Union, in a game that saw neither team register a shot on goal amid the wind and rain of Tropical Storm Ophelia.

Rest assured, there will be shots on goal Saturday night in Los Angeles.


Saturday’s matchup with the Red Bulls marks the first time LAFC defender Aaron Long will face his old club, with whom he spent six seasons, since the LA native left New York for LAFC in the 2022-23 offseason.

“You gotta treat it as just another game, right?” said Long, who won the MLS Defender of the Year award with the Red Bulls in 2018. “After the game you can see old friends and talk, but until then it’s just another game. We're gonna do everything we can to get the win.”

Asked whether Long had offered any scouting help during the week, LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo replied: “Sure, we always ask players about their ex-club’s tendencies and habits and behaviors. Obviously Sandro [Schwarz, NYRB’s recently-hired head coach] is new, but there are some similarities, and that always helps. It's more confirmation than it is something new.”

“It's not like it's revealing big secrets or anything like that,” Long said of the Red Bulls’ trademark high press and the chaos it causes. “The Red Bull system is very true to itself. When you play the Red Bull teams, you know exactly what you're gonna get and they pride themselves on that. They bring it, they bring the energy, they bring the press, and that's their model, right? So there's not a ton of stuff, you know, some small variances maybe that I can shed some light on, but nothing big by any means.”


Cherundolo and Schwarz know each other well. Born just four months apart, they played against one another in Germany’s Bundesliga in the early 2000s. After Schwarz retired in 2009 and Cherundolo in 2014, they began their respective coaching careers in Germany (Schwarz’s home country) and crossed paths often.

Schwarz, who was hired to lead the Red Bulls in December 2023, spoke highly of Cherundolo this week. Cherundolo returned the praise on Friday: “I know Sandro and obviously I followed his coaching career. He's done an amazing job, and he's done a great job in New York already. I know his assistants and the GM and so there are a lot of friendly faces – and experience – on the other sideline tomorrow.”

The Red Bulls’ frenetic playing style mimics that of their Bundesliga brothers, RB Leipzig, which Cherundolo said “over the past couple of years has been one of the better teams in the Bundesliga and have obviously invested more in quality footballers and trying to improve their football to continuously play in the Champions League to try to win titles.

“That little evolution happened in New York this offseason,” Cherundolo added, “and they put better footballers on the field who are also comfortable playing in that system.” Red Bulls’ midfielder Emil Forsberg, one of the biggest signings in MLS this past winter, played ten sterling seasons for Leipzig at Germany’s highest level, excelling in both Champions League and Europa League play. “Emil Forsberg is a great example of that,” Cherundolo added, “maybe the best example of that. A player who understands that system feels comfortable in that system but has football capabilities to elevate it to the next level. He's been a great addition for them.”


The Red Bulls’ media session this week focused on the unfortunate injuries suffered recently by two of its brightest young players. Peter Stroud, a homegrown midfielder and former Duke star, had started all eight matches for the Red Bulls before going down last weekend with a long-term leg injury. Same for Serge Ngoma, a homegrown forward. The team will also be without starting center back Andrés Reyes against LAFC. Reyes was shown a red card against Chicago last weekend and is suspended.

When the conversation turned to LAFC, Schwarz said: “It’s a very good team and a very tough game Saturday on the road. We have to defend very compact … They have high quality in transition moments in both directions, after winning the ball and also after losing the ball in the counter press, so it’s a big challenge for us … Very good team, very good coach.”

Schwarz said of reigning Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga: “One against one player, with speed, good space behavior, good timing on deep runs and also with his dribbling, sometimes goes to the right side, sometimes goes to the left … very good technique in his one-on-one dribbling … you have to defend very intelligently against him.”

Veteran defender Sean Nealis added: “We have to be ready to shift a little more on our back line. They like to float in between pockets between us and our midfielders … so we have to be ready to shift and step and make things uncomfortable so they can’t possess and control the game.”


The Red Bulls, who claimed the last playoff spot in the East last season, have earned at least a point from eight of their last nine MLS regular season road matches, including a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati on April 6. The Red Bulls have earned 15 road wins since the beginning of 2022, which is tied for first in MLS in that span.


  • Entering this season, NYRB had the most overall wins in MLS since 2000 (regular-season and playoffs), according to
    • LAFC owns the highest winning percentage in MLS over that span, at 61.2 percent. The Red Bulls are 8th in winning percentage (53.5).
  • Cherundolo called the announcement of LAFC’s upcoming U.S. Open Cup match against the Las Vegas Lights “the best news of the week.” The game will be played at Cashman Field in Las Vegas, where Cherundolo served as head coach for the USL Championship side in 2021, when the Lights were LAFC’s second team. “We're very excited about that, especially those involved with the LAFC-Las Vegas Lights project for the past couple of years,” Cherundolo said. “Great news. Can't wait to get back to Cashman.” The win-and-advance, Round of 32 match is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. PT.

LAFC returns to action on Saturday, April 20, with a home match against the New York Red Bulls. The match is scheduled for 7:30pm PT and can be seen on Apple TV – MLS Season Pass with additional radio coverage on 710 AM ESPN, ESPN LA App, KFWB 980 AM La Mera Mera (Español) and Sirius XM FC (English & Español).

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