Training Report

Notes from Training | Matchday 6

LAFC players and coaches preach composure, perspective ahead of Nashville’s visit to BMO Stadium on Saturday 

03222024 LAFC training

Since LAFC began playing matches in 2018, assistant coach Ante Razov, himself a once lethal finisher in Europe, MLS and for the USMNT, has been in charge of the Black & Gold’s attack. So it was fitting that headed into Saturday’s home match against Nashville SC – with LAFC having gone more than 300 minutes without a goal over its last three-plus games – Razov was the man sitting behind a microphone after Thursday’s practice, addressing the situation.

The message from MLS’ seventh all-time leading goal scorer? Stay calm.

“We started with this group on a shortened preseason,” Razov said, referencing the team’s 42-day break after playing in the MLS Cup final in December. “We didn't have a good performance in Minnesota, but we are pleased with how training is going and we've cleared up a few things and it's the fifth game of the season. Nobody's panicking here.”

LAFC’s record of 1W-2L-1D represents the fewest points through four regular-season games in the club’s seven years of existence. Its 10th-place standing in the Western Conference standings is also unfamiliar.

“We don't even look at the table following the fourth game,” midfielder Ilie Sánchez said in Spanish. “Honestly, I don't know where we are in the rankings, nor do I care. I am very interested in Saturday's game against Nashville, which is a great team and is coming to earn points here in Los Angeles. Our main objective, and I would say our only objective, is to play better and to be able to generate more and clearer chances, and win the match.”


Nashville SC (1W-0L-3D), a perennial MLS power that was ousted from CONCACAF Champions Cup last week by Inter Miami, stands in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, but has scored seven goals in its last four games across all competitions. DP striker Sam Surridge, who joined Nashville last summer but didn’t make the instant impact expected of him, has found his form recently, scoring three goals in his last four appearances.

LAFC will have to be mindful of “our offensive marking,” Razov said, “to not let them get out in transition, which is where they can hurt you. And certainly when they give service from wide, they have some guys that are dangerous in the box, so we have to be very alert on that.” 

Highest on that list of threats is Hany Mukhtar, the 2022 MLS Golden Boot winner who finished fifth in MLS in goals last season, with 15. Former LAFC defender (and 2023 Best XI honoree) Walker Zimmerman has missed Nashville’s last three matches due to injury, including last Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Charlotte—the 50th win in franchise history. Nonetheless, said LAFC defender Aaron Long, “Nashville is a very tough team to play against and I think they pride themselves on that. They're very good at getting guys behind the ball, being hard to break down. They don't give up a lot of goals … but we’re at home, where we’re always confident.”

“Nashville, without a doubt, is one of the best teams in the league,” Sánchez added. “That's why I tell you that Saturday is a very good opportunity because of who we will have in front of us. We can see what we are made of.”


One certainty is that LAFC will send out a different starting XI on Saturday than the one that took the field in the club’s first four matches. Left back Omar Campos has been training with Mexico’s U-23 team this week in preparation for its two friendlies against Argentina on Friday (March 22) and Monday (March 25). “We will adjust,” Razov said. “That would mean Sergi Palencia would be an option for us … Omar has done a good job. He’s a young player and brings great potential to our group. Sergi is a solid veteran and we know we can count on him.”

Forward Nathan Ordaz started and played all 90 minutes of El Salvador’s 1-1 draw against the island nation of Bonaire on Thursday night. Ordaz, the 20-year-old LAFC academy product who has come on as a substitute in three of LAFC’s first four games, is also expected to miss Saturday’s game at BMO Stadium. 

Despite Campos’ absence and the ongoing construction of a roster that dressed just six bench players in Minnesota last weekend, “We wanna get a win at home,” said Long (who is one of 15 or so players and staffers embroiled in a no-stakes NCAA basketball bracket contest). “It's been a couple of weeks now since we got three points. A good performance is gonna go a long way with the group.”


Sánchez, the 33-year-old veteran who has worn the captain’s armband in LAFC’s first four matches but insists “we have many captains,” has seen tough moments before. (The 2019 SKC squad he played on lost 16 games and carried a goal differential of -18). He has also seen a few triumphs (like LAFC’s lifting of the MLS Cup in 2022).

On Thursday, a reporter asked Sánchez in his native Spanish if he had any words for fans who might be worried about the bumpiest start in LAFC’s short history. “I do have a few words to say,” Sánchez replied. “We are not worried. Not the players, nor [head coach] Steve [Cherundolo], no one is worried about the situation … and if anyone is worried, the best thing they can do is come and cheer on the team, because this way they will show that in both the good times and the bad you have to be with the team ... I believe that if you saw the training sessions, the people who are worried would stop being worried. We are not.

“The important thing is the games. We understand that. We are realistic and we need the support of everyone, from those who are worried, from those who are not, from those who are always with the team, and from those who sometimes get off the boat, to overcome this situation and win on Saturday.”


Saturday’s match will mark Cherundolo’s 100th as LAFC’s head coach, across all competitions.

Eduard Atuesta is one assist away from becoming the second all-time assist leader in LAFC history, trailing only Carlos Vela.

LAFC hosts Nashville SC on Saturday, March 23, at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles, with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PT. The match will be shown live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV and can be heard in Spanish on 980 AM La Mera Mera and in English on the ESPN LA App.

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