Training Report

Notes from Training | Matchday 18

Hugo Lloris said it best: “There is still one more game left before the little break. So we need another push, all together.”

Training Camp Day 1 Players Running Together 2018 IMG

Friday at the LAFC Performance Center, LAFC finished preparations for its last match before the FIFA international break, a home date against FC Dallas on Saturday, June 1, at 7:30 p.m. PT (MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 710 AM ESPN, the ESPN LA App, and KFWB 980 AM La Mera Mera (Español).

With 15 games completed and 19 remaining in its 2024 regular season, LAFC’s current moment finds the team riding a string of positive outcomes and balanced, disciplined play, to the tune of six straight wins in all competitions, including four straight in the league. The result is a record of 8W-4L-3D, good for third place in the Western Conference, with an always competitive Dallas side (3W-7L-4D, 12th place) up next.

“Obviously results-wise, things have not gone their way,” LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said of Saturday’s opponent, “but it's also a very dangerous team. They can score goals any time, good in transition, set pieces. Their possession has been decreased from last year but that makes them more vertical and a little faster in their attacks, a little more explosive. They have a real target and finisher in [Petar] Musa. So there are dangers there.”

Musa, 26, a clever Croatian forward, has scored a team-high five goals and two assists for Dallas in 13 MLS games (all starts). Forward Jesús Ferreira, one of the best strikers in MLS the last few seasons, has been hobbled recently by a leg issue, but is expected to play on Saturday after coming on for the final 23 minutes of Dallas’ 3-1 loss to the Galaxy at mid-week.

“Ending this match with a victory is not going to be easy,” LAFC defender Eddie Segura said in Spanish, “but we have to take advantage of all the positive things that are happening. We’re going to play at our house and we’re going to have our people pushing us. So we hope to close the month well and take advantage of the days that follow to rest, to come back strong again and continue as we have been doing.”

MR. CLEAN

LAFC has not conceded a goal in its last 484 minutes of play, across all competitions. That’s more than eight hours of football in which an opponent has not dented the LAFC net. It’s a new (and still-growing) club record, as is LAFC’s 391 consecutive shutout minutes in MLS action.

A smile covered goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ face when the subject came up on Friday. “It's funny when we talk about clean sheets – that word is maybe more British – for me, it's all about teamwork. Obviously, the keeper gets the credit, but without my teammates I cannot do it.”

Added Cherundolo: “We don’t really talk about it. I do spend time speaking about why it's happening. And we focus on those behaviors rather than the result. You can always get scored on – a set piece can slip in, the referee can call penalty – there are some things that are not in our control. What is in control is our behavior in that end of the field, and that has been very good.”

GOOD FORM

Of LAFC’s suffocating 2-0 win over Minnesota United last weekend, Cherundolo said, “That's what LAFC should always look like. That looks like LAFC plays at home … but there's certainly room for improvement.”

Pivotal in that match, and in LAFC’s overall run of good form, has been multi-dimensional attacker Mateusz Bogusz, whose 30-yard strike from distance against the Loons provided LAFC’s second goal, his third in his last four games, and his sixth of the season.

“It's a lot of fun watching him,” a smiling Cherundolo said of the 22-year-old from Poland. “He has really special moments and he has moments where, you know, you scratch your head a little bit. It’s great to see a young attacker really gelling with the others, figuring out a system and being prolific. But again, at the same time, we are trying to work on his deficiencies and to make him into a very complete player.”

Cherundolo knows full well, though, that his team is clicking. He also knows that good form can be fleeting. “There are stretches where you have to play absolutely perfectly to get a positive result, and every little counter-attack, every little bounce, every call goes against you. We obviously are in a different moment now. So it's really important to try to prolong that … You actively have to work on it in the training pitch and talk about in the video room to be able to prolong it and understand why we're in that moment, and what little things we need to continue doing to maintain this momentum.”

“When you arrive at that type of level,” said Lloris, veteran of four World Cups and dozens of UEFA Champions League matches, “you have to make sure that you keep the same level. You don't want to drop. You don't want inconsistency. You don't want up and downs. You want to make sure that you are strong and ready to challenge any team.”

INTERNATIONAL BREAK

After LAFC and FC Dallas square off, MLS clubs and most of the rest of the club football world will pause to allow players to compete for their countries in early June. “We need to push obviously for another day and a half to maximize the points we can get for this little stint, and then sit back, relax, take a breather and restart,” Cherundolo said. “We are a thin roster and we've relied heavily on predominantly the same group for most of the minutes all year. So they need a break.”

LAFC has four players who will play internationally during FIFA’s June window: Denis Bouanga (Gabon), Omar Campos (Mexico U-23), Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg), and Timmy Tillman (United States).

Of Tillman, the midfielder who’s enjoying a breakout season as a pro, Cherundolo said with a smile: “Unfortunately, Timmy is well equipped to play many positions … so I'm sure he'll adapt to the U.S. team in no time. And I think [U.S. coach] Gregg [Berhalter] – they liked what they saw in January. That was the feedback, and I anticipate him being gone for a while, which hurts. But obviously, I'm ecstatic for Timmy and the U.S. team.”

Playing for his native France used to be a biannual ritual for Lloris until “one year and a half ago, I made the decision to retire from international football because I arrived at a certain moment of my career that I needed more time with my family,” he said. “And also because I could not cope anymore with the with the rhythm of the international schedule, especially when you are involved in all the [club] competition. You have to be able to play at a high level for 50-60 games a year.”

Dialing things back and playing only for LAFC, he added, “doesn't mean that I take it in a different way. You know, I take it with the same professionalism … and with the same motivation to win games and help the team to achieve the target.”

LLORIS ON GIROUD

Friday provided the first opportunity for Lloris to talk about LAFC’s recent signing of his good friend Olivier Giroud from Italian club AC Milan. “Obviously it will be a great addition into the team,” Lloris said of France’s all-time leading scorer, with whom he lifted the 2018 World Cup trophy. “He is going to bring so much, on and off the field. First of all, as a person, he is a great man with a great mentality, a family man as well. And he is going to bring his experience. And he's the kind of man who is open to share, so that will be really good for a young team.

“He’s got his own profile as a player,” Lloris continued. “You don't see many players with the same profile today because of the evolution of football. He is so efficient. He is priceless for a team. … He's a really good friend, our families are really close, so yes, I'm happy to share this moment of my career with him.”

As for what Giroud can expect as he shifts from playing at Europe’s top levels to North America’s, Lloris said: “The difficulty in MLS is to manage the offensive transition because it's a little bit more open than you see in Europe. But to be honest with you, it's even better than what I expected, you know. There is a level of competition, there is a demand of competition, week in, week out, and at the end of the day, winning a football game, it's hard. It doesn't matter in which league you play.”

ODDS & ENDS

If Jesús Murillo plays on Saturday, it will mark the 100th regular-season appearance of the LAFC defender’s MLS career. Murillo, 30, played many of those 99 games alongside his friend Segura, a fellow Colombian and fellow defender who has appeared in 94 regular-season matches.

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