Training Report

Notes from Training | Matchday 5

Young players, a formidable road opponent, and a chance to win a trophy this summer were the topics on LAFC players’ minds Thursday at the PC

LAFC Campos Martinez 240306 Training

With three regular-season games behind them and an away match in Minnesota up next, LAFC players and coaches wrapped up their preparations for Matchday 5 with a Thursday morning training session at the Performance Center on the campus of Cal State LA.

The Black & Gold roster is still not fully realized. The team has dressed only twenty players or so for its first three matches, nearly half of whom are either new to LAFC or have a year or less of MLS experience.

Saturday’s opponent, Minnesota United FC won’t provide much compassion. The Loons (2W-0L-1D) sit in a tie atop the Western Conference standings, having notched impressive road wins over Austin and Orlando, and a comeback home draw against defending MLS Cup champions Columbus Crew. MNUFC will have a new leader this week, as well.


New Loons manager Eric Ramsay – who at 32 becomes the youngest head coach in MLS – has led his new team remotely over the last couple of weeks. The former Manchester United assistant coach is expected to join the Loons in person for Saturday’s meeting with the defending conference champions.

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo said on Thursday that “it's a little more difficult this weekend due to the fact of a new coach arriving. I do know obviously he's been in contact with the group and sort of coaching from afar, but it's always different when a new person is there. We’ll prepare for a very athletic and talented team… and a team full of confidence at the moment.”

Center back Jesús Murillo, part of an LAFC defense that has yet to concede a non-penalty-kick goal in its first two home matches, said through a translator that he hopes “to continue the defensive part … as long as we keep [our opponents] at zero, our players up front will have the opportunity to score at any time.”


Cherundolo was asked at Thursday’s media session about new additions David Martínez and Tomás Ángel—two attackers who are still awaiting significant minutes. 

Of Martínez, the 18-year-old Venezuelan winger who brought BMO Stadium to life against SKC with a pair of thrilling attacks in the closing minutes, Cherundolo said: “It's really exciting to work with him. We're seeing him trying to adapt as soon as possible, trying to learn and apply what we're giving him in the little tidbits during breaks and in video sessions. He tries to apply it in training and when he does, he will [appear] in games moving forward.

“I think we will slow play this one,” Cherundolo added, noting Martinez’s youth, “but I think we can all be very excited about David in the future.”

As for Ángel, the 21-year-old Colombian striker who starred in last year’s U20 World Cup, Cherundolo offered: “Tomás is currently recovering from some discomfort and so we're hopeful to get him going as soon as possible. He’s still questionable this weekend, but yeah, definitely a nine [center forward] in our system. Once you get him in the box, he knows what to do.”

Murillo spoke at length about another new teammate, playmaking midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who starred at LAFC for four seasons (2018-21), then played two years in Brazil before returning to LA in preseason and starting all three regular-season games to this point. “What he brings to the team is a special touch, something that is always needed in good teams,” Murillo observed of the midfield maestro, who is one game away from making his 100th appearance for the Black & Gold.



Thursday morning LAFC was given its schedule for the upcoming Leagues Cup competition in July – a month-long, World-Cup-style tournament that mixes the 29 clubs in MLS with the 19 who play in Liga MX (Mexico’s first division) until a single champion is decided.

LAFC’s three-team group includes Club Tijuana Xolos of Liga MX and Vancouver Whitecaps FC of MLS— two teams who play just across the United States’ southern and northern borders. 

“I'm really looking forward to Xolos,” said Cherundolo, a San Diego native who grew up a few miles from the Mexican metropolis. “I was actually hoping for a trip to Tijuana, but we have to play in LA,” he joked. 

“I think it's a clash of styles, which I think is exciting for fans to watch too. I know it is for us coaches,” he said in reference to the Liga MX side.

Cherundolo added that he has attended Xolos home matches and has experienced the nearby greyhound races and eclectic atmosphere surrounding Estadio Caliente. “It’s a fun time,” he said. “It would have been fun to play either there or in San Diego … but nothing's better than BMO. So we're happy to be home.”

LAFC defender Omar Campos played in last year’s Leagues Cup as a member of Liga MX club Santos Laguna. “Last time I was on the Mexico side,” he said through a translator. “Xolos are a team that I know. We are going to approach it in the best way to open that tournament with a  win.

LAFC will face Club Tijuana on Friday, July 26, at BMO Stadium, at 8:00 p.m. PT, and will host Vancouver in the second and final group-stage match on Tuesday, July 30, also at BMO Stadium (7:30 p.m. PT). All Leagues Cup matches will be available on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.


Campos, who has played nearly every minute of LAFC’s first three matches, has found time between training sessions to explore Los Angeles. “It’s a city that I like,” the 21-year-old Mexico City native said. “It's very pretty. I feel respected here. It's very safe. The truth is that I came with my girlfriend, which helped me a lot. My parents don't have their visa yet, but soon they will be here, too.”

A left back who has replaced four-year starter Diego Palacios at that position, Campos observed that the style of play in MLS, compared to Liga MX, “is very different, because here the style of play is very touch-and-move, which I was not used to. But I am adapting little by little, to have the best time and have the greatest confidence.”

Reigning MLS Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga discovered the same fast-paced mode of play when he arrived at LAFC from France just 20 months ago. Now Campos plays behind Bouanga as an extra attacker on LAFC’s left flank. “What the coaches ask me to do is sometimes go towards the center so that [Bouanga] is on the outside,” Campos said. “That connection with Denis is very interesting. If I go outside, Denis goes to the center.”

One of the most welcoming aspects of Campos’ new life in the U.S. is the fan base that surrounds his new club. LAFC supporters “never stop cheering the whole game,” Campos said. “The whole game they are shouting. It is something impressive that I had not seen. I have only been playing professionally for a short time, but it is something that has helped me a lot to be able to play with confidence, with desire. The fans are a fundamental part, because they are why we do our jobs in the best way— for all those who come to see us.”

LAFC will continue its 2024 regular season on Saturday, March 16, with an away match against Minnesota United. That game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. PT and will be shown live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. Fans can also listen in English on the ESPN LA App and in Spanish on 980 AM La Mera Mera.

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