Training Report

Notes from Training | Matchday 11

With the Portland Timbers in LAFC’s rear-view mirror and in its windshield, the Black & Gold look to remain undefeated at home in 2024

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Only eleven days have passed since LAFC and the Timbers squared off at Providence Park in Portland, a game that ended in a 2-2 draw. Last weekend each team played another 2-2 draw – LAFC at home against the Red Bulls and Portland in Columbus against the defending champion Crew. On Thursday at the LAFC Performance Center, the Black & Gold (3W-3L-3D) prepared for Saturday’s rematch with the Timbers (2W-3L-4D) with the goal of finishing April unbeaten by gathering three points in front of another sellout crowd at BMO Stadium.

Centerbacks Jesús Murillo (who missed the Red Bulls match due to knee discomfort) and Aaron Long (who left the Red Bulls match after banging his shin on the goal frame) were on hand at the PC on Thursday, having started LAFC’s first eight games next to one another at the heart of LAFC’s back line.

“Yeah, Murillo, trained today, he looks good and seems to be symptom-free,” said head coach Steve Cherundolo. “Aaron will be fine, might need another day or two, but we could have him ready for this weekend … we have to see how he shapes up tomorrow.”

Cherundolo, on the topic of facing a conference rival a few days after their last meeting, said: “I think in two weeks not a lot happens. Obviously you track yellow cards, suspensions, injuries, that always changes teams a little bit. And then you have a recent performance against each other … I think you use more of your last performance to get ready for this game and not so much performance against other teams.”


One performance that remains on Cherundolo’s mind is last weekend’s draw with New York, in which LAFC conceded two goals on corner kicks. “We lost two points against New York due to those situations, and things that shouldn't happen to us and don't happen very often, which is why it concerns us … Actually, the last time we conceded on two set pieces was against Philadelphia in the [2022 MLS Cup] final.

“Portland, on the other hand, the goals we conceded there [two weeks ago] were one defensive organization, and the other one was kind of in transition. And those are two of the moments that Portland is very, very good at, and very creative, unpredictable at times due to the creativity they have, and we did not defend those situations well. We will have solutions this weekend.”


Against New York, LAFC started a center forward not named Mateusz Bogusz for the first time this season. That position, the so-called “number 9,” is traditionally a club’s featured goal scorer. Bogusz has put three balls in the back of the net so far in 2024 (including two against Portland two weeks ago), while his replacement, Kei Kamara, has done so 144 times in his MLS career, third-most in league history, but has yet to score his first in Black & Gold. Each brings different qualities to the role.

“They are different players for sure,” winger Cristian Olivera said in Spanish. “Bogusz is more about opening spaces and finding spaces for you, and Kei is more about holding the ball and giving you more breathing room ... We try to do the same things with either one. They have different characteristics, but that does not affect the rest of us in any way.”

“My natural position is number 8,” Bogusz said, referring to the traditional box-to-box midfielder position, “but I think my role as a number 9 is a little bit similar.” When LAFC presses, Bogusz explained, he is a “true 9” – front and center in the attack. “But when we're playing and when we have the ball, I drop like a number eight, so I don't see a big difference.

“Both work,” the 22-year-old Poland international added. “I think I I'm helping the team. So as long as I do that, I think we won't change. The season is long. You never know.”


In just over a season and a half, Denis Bouanga has netted 46 goals for LAFC in all competitions, collecting two Golden Boots [MLS and Concacaf Champions Cup] and a half-dozen hat tricks along the way. So it’s only natural for the team’s most dangerous player to be seen as its leader. Bouanga wears that responsibility in his own way.

“He’s a man of few words, either in French or English,” Cherundolo said. “He's a leader by example. And in this game, to be a leader as an attacker is quite difficult. Part of leadership is also self-confidence, and attackers are really reliant on their production. Denis was extremely productive last year [but] has left a couple of sitters this year out there and is not happy with his production. But he'll get back to his old strengths. And that goes along with being a leader as an attacker in our sport.”

“I think that Denis is the most important player in MLS and also on the team,” Olivera said in Spanish. “The truth is that having a player like him on the team is extraordinary. Personally, it helps me a lot. He gives me a lot of advice. Even though he doesn't speak much Spanish and I don’t speak much French, I understand him very well. He helps me a lot on the field and off the field.”

“There are different players with different personalities,” Cherundolo added, “but for Denis, leading by example and scoring and setting his teammates up or winning balls in the opponent's half or dribbling by guys and creating opportunities for us to score is extremely important for him to help lead this group forward.”


LAFC’s acquisition of Bouanga two summers ago was a drop of water in the wave of high-profile international players who have come to Major League Soccer during the prime of their careers.

Whether it’s LAFC’s signing of Chicho Arango from Colombia’s top division in 2021 (when he was 26), or the Timbers’ signing of multi-talented attacker Evander from Denmark in 2022 (when he was 24), the league has become not just a stepping stone, but a destination.

“I think the reputation of the MLS has improved,” said Cherundolo, who played all over the world for the U.S. Mens National Team and for more than a decade in Germany’s Bundesliga. “The quality of play has improved. I think that's clear. I think it [would be] a mistake to stop evolving and to stop pushing this thing forward. I think now is the time to invest more. Now is the time to get even better, to push the momentum even more to our side now, with the World Cup coming in ‘26 as well.

“Even though we're in a good spot right now, I think we're still playing catch up to a lot of leagues around the world. And I'd love to see us take further steps towards being competitive with bigger leagues.”


Timbers goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau will return to BMO Stadium on Saturday night for the first time since he signed with Portland over the winter as a free agent. The last time Crépeau played in LA was on December 2, 2023, when he made five saves in LAFC’s 2-0 win over Houston in the Western Conference final.

LAFC returns to action on Saturday, April 27, with a home match against the Portland Timbers. 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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