Part Of Our History | Thank You, Diego Palacios

For more than four seasons the Ecuadorian left back was LAFC’s gift who never stopped giving – and never stopped taking from opponents

Part of Our History_Chiqui_Web

One could make a strong argument that Diego Palacios has been LAFC’s second-most valuable player over the last four years behind Carlos Vela, the club’s captain, original signing, and the 2019 MLS MVP.

During Palacios’ four-plus years in Los Angeles, he dutifully patrolled the 100-plus yards of grass along LAFC’s left flank, from goal line to goal line, playing practically every game while weaving a tapestry of tackles, telepathic interceptions, and dangerous, curving crosses into opponents’ penalty areas—including the most important assist in club history.

Now that “Chiqui” is departing Los Angeles to begin a new chapter in his career with Corinthians in the top tier of Brazilian football, a written appreciation of what he has meant to LAFC between 2019 and 2023 is not just in order, it’s probably overdue.

Within a year of Palacios’ arrival in L.A. in August 2019, he was being mentioned as among the top left backs in Major League Soccer. He was 20.

In 2023, during what turned out to be his final season with the Black & Gold, Palacios proved that he had not just become the league’s premier player at his position, but arguably its best defender overall. Not that individual recognition ever mattered to Palacios, whose humble, reserved personality contradicts his fast and fierce style of play. Palacios cared mainly about winning, which he did a lot of while wearing LAFC’s crest.

Palacios had a hand in each of the trophies LAFC has won since it began play in 2018. He also won the ball—hundreds of times—before playing it forward, daringly, urgently, and in accordance with LAFC’s attack-minded identity.

According to FBREF, in 2023 Palacios led MLS in combined tackles (89) and interceptions (55), which means that he dispossessed teams of the ball a league-best 144 times. He set the LAFC single-season record with 87 tackles in 2022, then beat that mark by two in 2023.


You can’t reach those heights as a fullback unless you play a lot of minutes. Palacios’ dynamic physical attributes distract from a less exciting one: his durability. He always played. In 2020, in stadiums emptied by COVID, there he was, on the field. In LAFC’s biggest matches, his name was in the Starting XI. Same for midsummer road contests against teams near the bottom of the table. Palacios was a fixture at left back, chasing down MLS’ fastest forwards then running ahead to serve his own team’s attack.

Winner of the Best Young Player award in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League, and an MLS All-Star in 2022, Palacios played more regular-season minutes over the last four seasons – 7,831 – than any LAFC player during that time. No one else even reached 7,000. His career-high came this season, when his team needed him most, during a record-setting campaign that consisted of 53 total games. By August he had logged more minutes across all competitions than he had in all last year.

In October, when he was recognized for playing in his 100th career MLS game, he responded with his usual humility.

For all these contributions, however, Palacios’ time in Los Angeles will be remembered for one moment.

Fans and the international football media have celebrated and dissected Gareth Bale’s equalizing goal in the 128th minute of the 2022 MLS Cup final in countless ways. Only the most astute of them recognize the moment of tenacity and genius that preceded it and made it possible.

The game was all but over, you’ll recall. LAFC was playing a man down, and a goal down, trailing Philadelphia, 3-2. Referee Ismail Elfath was glancing at his watch. Then Palacios scooped up a deflected throw-in, carried the ball under pressure to the Union’s goal line, and jabbed his left boot beneath it. When Bale leapt and headed Palacios’ cross home, BMO Stadium exploded with volcanic energy. Bale disappeared inside a swarm of teammates and supporters.

Palacios? He was on the other side of the field, scowling in defiance of anyone who thought LAFC was going to lose that game, then taking a big step and swinging his fist through the air, twice, like a pitcher throwing two fastballs. It was the image of a man on fire. A man who had no intention of walking off that field in second place.

It was his brightest moment. But it only partially explains why the 20-year-old who arrived at LAFC with the nickname “Chiqui” (Little One), which he earned as a child in Ecuador because he was usually the shortest kid on the pitch, leaves LAFC a giant.

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