Training Report

Notes from Training: Thursday


Following its season-opening win over Seattle, LAFC returned to its training headquarters at Cal State Los Angeles this week, with a conference road match against Real Salt Lake next on the schedule.

LAFC, which won just three league games outside of southern California during the 2023 regular season, can take no opponent lightly, not even RSL, a perennially strong side that nonetheless has lost 14 of the 17 matches it has played against LAFC over the years.

LAFC head coach Steve Cherundolo has already put his team’s debut win over the Sounders behind him. “It's a different game, different opponent, different scenario. This is Real Salt Lake's first home game, their third game total. We expect a team who is looking for their first win of the season and who will be coming to beat us. Our players know that we've prepared them for that, and we'll have solutions.”


LAFC played Real Salt Lake twice in 2023 after RSL acquired forward and former LAFC marksman Cristian “Chicho” Arango. So Saturday’s meeting of old friends won’t be the first. Arango, however, remains among the most beloved figures in LAFC’s short history.

The Colombian striker (recently named RSL’s 2024 captain) won the MLS Newcomer of the Year award with LAFC in 2021, led the Black & Gold in goals that season and in 2022, scored a playoff match-winner in stoppage time against the Galaxy in 2022, added another in the conference final, and lifted the MLS Cup following his last game in Los Angeles. Emotions still run deep on both sides, as evidenced by Arango’s respectful lack of celebration when he scored the game winner over LAFC in a late-season match in LA last October.

“Obviously, Chicho is a player we know very well, he knows us, so it goes both ways,” Cherundolo said. “There are no secrets. [He is] a player that our team has seen in training for a long time and we also know his qualities and his dangers— but also his deficiencies. No player is perfect. I think sometimes it makes opponent-scouting easier. The only challenge is to get the new players on board and up to speed.”

Arango has looked dangerous in both of RSL’s league matches to this point (a 2-0 road loss to Inter Miami and a 1-1 draw with St. Louis City SC), and scored his club’s only goal.


LAFC will also need to acclimate itself to what – as of this writing – looks like a harsh weekend of weather up ahead. With highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s expected in northern Utah on Saturday, along with a chance of snow, the contrast between last Saturday’s 72-degree home opener in sunny LA will be stark. Not to mention the 4,500-foot elevation at America First Field.

“Yeah, that's another tough part, right?” said LAFC defender Ryan Hollingshead. “Seeing the altitude early in the season like this, as we're still kind of getting our fitness and getting our legs, it’s not ideal … but it'll be a really good test for us and really good for our fitness too, to push through some of that, some of the heavy legs, the lack of oxygen, those things.”

Cherundolo is focused on football, not flurries. “The points of interest for us are trying to get in behind opponents’ defenses, get in their box and create chances. Not too interested in a whole lot of crossing, other than the type of crossing that we saw on our first goal against Seattle. ... We're also looking for moments of high pressure and winning the balls and opponents’ halves … which is also a question of fitness. Each game we play, our team will get fitter. So yes, I expect a little more in those areas assuming the field is in good playing condition.”


The goal-creating cross Cherundolo mentioned came off the left foot of 21-year-old Liga MX transfer Omar Campos, the new left back who turned his first start in Major League Soccer into a spot on the league’s Team of the Matchday.

“We were happy with Omar in preseason,” Cherundolo said. “He learned our system very well. He's adapting to football here in the United States, which is different than in Mexico. And I couldn't be happier with his first performance. And what we see in training is more than what he showed in the game. So there is more room for improvement, and we expect that of him.”


Another newcomer, Venezuelan forward David Martínez, who turned 18 earlier this month, has been getting to know his new club as he awaits his own MLS debut. The lithe, left-footed winger, Hollingshead said, is “a really cool guy. Good to have him in. He's just a young kid still getting adapted to the speed of play here. Getting adapted to living in a new place, new country, new city, all these things. There's so much that goes into a transition like that, off the field.”

“Imagine being an 18-year-old kid moving away from everything you know, to come to a new city, new country, you don't know the language – and so you gotta take all that into account. With all that to the side though, you see this guy's skill, you see just his comfortability on the ball, you see him coming in and already showing his personality … when you see that early like he's showing it, you just know he's going to be a huge asset for us.”


Goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’ seven saves against Seattle tied the LAFC single-game record held by Tyler Miller.

Eddie Segura’s appearance late in the win over Seattle was his first regular-season game action since he injured his knee in the 2022 playoffs. The Colombian center back joined LAFC prior to the 2019 season and made 100 MLS appearances (91 starts) before his injury during LAFC’s win over the Galaxy in the Western Conference Semifinals.

LAFC is six wins away from the 100th regular-season win in team history. As it stands, the Black & Gold have a chance to become the fastest team in MLS’ post-shootout era (2000-present) to reach that mark.

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