Training Report

Notes from Training | Matchday 19

As summer begins and the schedule tightens, LAFC departs for two hot-weather matches with MLS playoff positioning on the line

03222024 LAFC training

The last time LAFC conceded a goal (May 8 in Las Vegas), Caitlin Clark had yet to make her WNBA debut, and the UEFA Champions League was still in its semifinal round.

That’s how long it’s been.

LAFC’s club-record for clean sheet minutes (575 and counting, across all competitions) was among the topics discussed at Thursday’s media session ahead of the Black & Gold’s trip to Florida to face Orlando City SC (4:30 p.m. PT, Sat. June 15 on Apple TV - MLS Season Pass). But head coach Steve Cherundolo took the chat in a different direction.

“You can think in streaks or you can think it's just game-to-game, or even half-to-half,” Cherundolo said. “And so the streak is just one game, I guess, if you think of it that way, which I do. I think game-to-game. And every game is broken up into two halves. So we're focused on what we need to do in the first half in Orlando right now.”

“It's gonna be tough,” said defender Aaron Long. “It's gonna be a grind, man. Orlando is a very tough team. It's a really long flight. It's gonna be hot. Conditions are gonna be tough. Their fans are very good. So it's gonna be a grueling game.”

“And then to go from there straight to Austin,” Long added, referencing LAFC’s match against Austin FC on Wed. June 19, “going to another super hot and tough environment – two away games, a lot of travel, it's gonna be a tough stretch. So we're definitely looking to bunker down. We know it's gonna be a lot of effort, and we want to come out of this away trip with some points.”

TRAVEL PLANS

Following the clash in Orlando, “we're not coming home,” Cherundolo said with a smile. “We're thinking of maybe Cancun for a couple of days. No, we'll be in Orlando for a night and then off to Austin.”

The extended road trip – with no flight home to LA between games – represents another test of LAFC’s recently improved form in away matches. The Black & Gold has won three straight away from BMO Stadium (in all competitions) after starting the season winless in its first five road matches.

“If you look back at the last couple of wins on the road, in St. Louis especially, there are moments in the game where you're gonna have to suffer,” Cherundolo said Thursday. “And I think that's the biggest difference at home and away, you have to suffer, and you're gonna have to absorb pressure from the opponent …

“In St. Louis, we showed the ability to suffer, which was excellent. You're gonna have to have those moments, but then you're gonna have a few moments where you need to be able to punish the opponent when they make mistakes— and they will. And we have shown that ability to have the upper hand in both of those categories. That's what we're hoping to see in Orlando and Austin.”

STRONG STREAK INTERRUPTED

It hasn’t just been defending. LAFC was clicking, from endline to endline, prior to the international window that arrived following its 1-0 win over Dallas on June 1. “Then the break came,” Cherundolo said. “We were obviously in a good way, and so I think a lot of people would say, ‘Hey, too bad it came.’ But I think we needed the rest – physically and mentally – and the players look sharp, they look hungry. And so I think the break came at a good time for us.”

The team’s current seven-game winning streak (including U.S. Open Cup play) made it easier to unwind during the time off, Long added. “You feel like you can really relax, you feel like you're in a good headspace. You don’t feel like you left points on the table on that last stretch … And this past week, week-and-a-half now of training, building back up has been great. The guys are flying, the mood around the facility is good, and we're chomping at the bit to get back out there.”

“I think the break served us well and it was very important for us,” defender Jesús Murillo said in Spanish. “We had many players who were playing several consecutive games, a lot of minutes, so we definitely needed that break.”

INTERNATIONAL WRAP-UP

Murillo, a native of Cali, Colombia, said that he and midfielder Eduard Atuesta (from Velez, Colombia) enjoyed watching their home country defeat the United States in a friendly this past weekend ahead of Copa America. Another LAFC midfielder, Timmy Tillman suited up for the U.S. in that Colombia match, but did not play. Tillman is expected to return to the Black & Gold in time for Saturday’s match in Orlando.

Elsewhere across the globe, Denis Bouanga scored the decisive goal in Gabon’s 3-2 victory over Gambia in World Cup qualifying in Africa. He also went the distance in Gabon’s 1-0 defeat to heavily-favored Ivory Coast. LAFC defender Maxime Chanot played all 90 minutes in Luxembourg’s two friendlies against European powers France and Belgium.

LAFC forward Cristian Olivera is the only LAFC player who will remain with his national team for the time being. The 22-year-old winger made Uruguay’s final roster for Copa America, the prestigious tournament contested among national teams from South America and North America. Olivera and Uruguay will open that competition on Sunday, June 23, against Panama.

Olivera trained with Orlando City midfielder César Araújo during the international break. Araújo earned his first cap for Uruguay on June 5 in its friendly win over Mexico. Orlando’s Facundo Torres also appeared in that contest. According to Orlando City SC, both “have returned to Orlando after missing out on Uruguay’s final Copa America squad.”

ODDS & ENDS

This past Wednesday, June 12, marked two years until the momentous day when the U.S. Mens National Team will kick off the 2026 FIFA World Cup here in Los Angeles. “Hosting that opening match is an honor that we can’t wait to uphold, said LAFC Co-President and CBO Larry Freedman, who also serves as Co-Chairman of the Los Angeles World Cup 2026 Host Committee. “That event that will have an enormous impact on L.A.’s communities, local businesses and the industries that drive our local economy.”

This week, MLS expansion team San Diego FC signed Mexican National Team mainstay Chucky Lozano, a coveted international star who will help the new club build its identity. “It's fantastic,” said Cherundolo, who was raised in San Diego and looks forward to the possibility of a new SoCal rivalry. “I love driving south on the 5 [Freeway]. It's a beautiful drive until you hit Oceanside where you hit a little traffic usually. It's great to have San Diego in the league, and to see them sign great players is also fun.

“Even though I am very biased and pro-LAFC, I have always been pro-MLS and I want this league to continue to get better and better and better. We have that potential, and I think we're on a great path.”

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