Cherundolo Talks About Coaching Vela, Playing At The Rose Bowl & More: Q&A With LAFC Head Coach Steve Cherundolo As LAFC Prepares For Sixth Season Kickoff
AFTER A PRESEASON ENDING WIN OVER SAN DIEGO ON FEB. 18 – HOW DO YOU FEEL THE TEAM IS PREPARED FOR THE START OF THE SEASON?
STEVE CHERUNDOLO: We are in a good spot. Guys were able to go 90 minutes [in our last preseason game] without any real issues. We got out of the preseason what we wanted to get out of it – and we had some really good performances in the preseason, like against Toronto [in the Coachella Invitational on Feb. 11].
We know the players are prepared for that first game and they will be ready to play at an intense level. However, it is really hard to recreate that level in a preseason match – when everybody knows there are not any real consequences.
We’re looking forward to those big games coming up. They are always fun. They are always exciting – and pretty intense. I know that our players will be ready.
YOU HAVE ADDED SOME NEW PLAYERS TO THE ROSTER FOR 2023 - HOW ARE SOME OF THE NEWEST PLAYERS LIKE TIMOTHY TILLMAN AND SERGI PALENCIA FITTING INTO THE SQUAD?
SC: Those two new guys are a little further behind somebody like Stipe [Biuk] or [Denil] Maldonado who have put more time in here. But in our preseason game – Timmy came in and I think he did great against San Diego.
When we identify players and try to bring them into our system, it is usually players who are already familiar with that type of system, and so it isn’t a big change for them and it is hopefully pretty easy for them to adapt, and that is what we’ve seen. Whether it is Stipe, Denil, Timmy or Sergi, who is very experienced – all of them have jumped in right away. We put them through a few meetings and work on our game model and all of them have picked it up really quickly and I was quite pleased.
WHAT SHOULD FANS EXPECT FROM AN EXPERIENCED PLAYER LIKE TIMOTHY TILLMAN?
SC: With Timmy, there are a few things he needs to adapt to still. Like how we play, how we interpret an “8” in this Club. But we are talking about very few details. I think he’s going to be an excellent player for LAFC.
CARLOS VELA IS ENTERING HIS SIXTH SEASON WITH LAFC – HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN COACHING HIM SO FAR AND HOW IS HE PREPARING FOR 2023?
SC: The “9” at LAFC is a player who gets a lot of chances and needs to finish those chances . For example, Carlos got one chance [in the preseason against San Diego] and he finished it. I think that play sums of the role of a “9” at LAFC. Carlos obviously brings more than just finishing, his playmaking ability and ability coming underneath and combining with other players will give us a little different look as well. He is a player I don’t really need to coach. Carlos has been very open to our ideas and at times criticism. He is a true pro and a true captain.
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR TEAM’S ROSTER AHEAD OF THE START OF THE SEASON – KNOWING THAT LAFC HAS FIVE DIFFERENT COMPETITIONS AND MORE GAMES THAN LAST YEAR TO PREPARE FOR?
SC: I think if you look at our team and our roster compared to last season – it is very clear that we are not as deep as last year. It is something that we know and are aware of. I think our first 11 is still pretty good and we’re quite pleased with it. We have very good players off the bench – we just don’t have as deep of an experienced bench as last season. So we are focusing on staying healthy and trying to manage a lot of games and a congested schedule this year with this group, and we are still looking to hopefully maybe add a player.
LAFC OPENS THE SEASON WITH A HISTORIC MATCH AT THE ROSE BOWL AGAINST THE GALAXY. HOW ARE YOU APPROACHING THIS MATCHUP?
SC: For both teams there are 3 points on the line – it is the first league game. That’s it from a sporting perspective. But, for the City of L.A. - I think filling up the Rose Bowl and having your two teams play at such a famous stadium is always special. I’ve personally played at the Rose Bowl, it has been an amazing venue with a lot of tradition and it is an exciting place to play. It has a different atmosphere than most stadiums, so I’m sure the players will enjoy it. This rivalry between the two clubs is a healthy rivalry. I think its fantastic and I really enjoy them. I think the games that we usually are able to create are also fun and energetic and show how important it is. Playing these games are important in general and you know – thinking back to the last time we played them at our stadium it was a fantastic game and a fantastic atmosphere and the right team came out on top.