We’re Here. I think LA’s Our City.

In case you missed it, this Friday was the second edition of Mark-Anthony Kaye’s weekly “MAK Show” segment on ESPN LA’s Mornings With Keyshawn, LZ and Travis, and it surely did not disappoint.  After a staggering 126 days and a global pandemic between LAFC’s second and third match of the season, the Club returned to the pitch this week for match one of the MLS is Back tournament against Houston on Monday night. Although the Club didn’t earn a full three points with a win, after trailing 3-1 at the half, the Black and Gold stormed back to a 3-3 draw. Finally there was some live soccer action to discuss, especially with LAFC taking on crosstown rival LA Galaxy Saturday night, but as Mark-Anthony joined the show noting that he had just been tested for the COVID-19 virus, the conversation naturally started there.

Bubble Check-In

No one can forget the MLS is Back tournament’s “bubble” atmosphere the players are living and playing in, and the morning show hosts wanted to check in further on how Mark is adjusting to this new normal. They first touched on testing procedures and how that experience has been. 

“We get tested every other day and then we get tested two days in a row leading up a game. It’s funny because [sic] as you’re going in, people will be coming out telling you which table to go to…number four, number four! Number five today, number five! So we always try to find who are the best testers”.

To which Keyshawn Johnson quickly replied, “I’m sure some of them are shoving it too far up people’s noses and they don’t like that feeling”.

“Of course, and you can’t really say much, because you know, they know this procedure much more than you do but, its been alright. We’re getting used to it.”

The hosts touched on a sometimes-overlooked element of the “bubble”. Not the food. Not the social aspect, but how it’s been for Kaye and the LAFC squad adjusting to a new harsh, humid climate in Orlando.

“So luckily for us, we train at night, so it usually cools off by the time we get on the field which is really nice, and so far all of our games are going to be at nighttime, so the temperatures not too bad – I couldn’t imagine playing a game at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning, you know it’s just like a wet, hot blanket wrapping around you, but for the most part we’ve been lucky with the schedule so we [get to] enjoy the cooler temperature of the day.

Kaye also discussed a little further how he was combatting boredom and down time.

“Yeah, you know, I think the boredom is there, obviously, but the days go by pretty quickly. The fact that we train at night, it’s crazy how much stuff you can just find to waste your time until training time and once you’re done training it’s like [sic], you’re getting ready to go to sleep. So I think guys are getting into a good routine, I haven’t spoken to a lot of them on what their individual routines are but me, I just, you know wake up, if there’s a game on, trying to watch a game, call my girlfriend, do some yoga, go to the gym, just try to keep the day moving so it gets a little bit easier so that by 7:00pm I’m not like oh my g-d I haven’t done anything. So,  it’s getting a little more palatable and we’re trying to push through it. 

On Returning to Play

Most importantly, LAFC finally returned to the pitch, and the hosts were eager to see how Mark felt being back out there. It’s one thing to be going through heavy practices, but kicking off rust and re-establishing competitive competition and chemistry is a whole new ball game.

“I think it was just a matter of time before we fully started clicking and I think you know, going into the game we don’t know how the other team is going to play and I think, [sic] maybe they caught us a little off guard a little bit, you know when I look back at the first half [of LAFC’s match against Houston on Monday night] it didn’t look too bad, there wasn’t that many transitional moments where they counter attacked us, but, you know we need to figure out how to shore up in the back, because if you look at our last game against Philly we had let in three goals too and that’s not really the LAFC everyone wants to see and that’s not the LAFC that we want to be a part of. So knowing that we can score three goals is always a positive but I think that rust was definitely there.”

Up Next, Galaxy

In the next MLS is Back tournament group stage match, LAFC will be facing crosstown foe LA Galaxy, in a rivalry that has taken the city of Los Angeles along with fans and supporters of both clubs by storm, and the hosts swiftly moved the conversation into asking Mark how different it will feel to play “El Trafico” in Orlando.

“Yeah, it’s definitively going to feel a little different because you can’t replicate the environment that’s created by the supporters and the stadiums and you know, the media fanfare before a game like that but I think in turn it will actually benefit us because you know, you look at Galaxy in the last couple of years they feed off of this rivalry where they’ve got to create these billboards next to our stadium, they’ve got to say this in the media, they’ve got to say that, and now they can’t really do that, [sic] so we’re ready, we want to win every game and the fact that it’s against the Galaxy, you know it’s a great opportunity to get three points so we’re excited but it will be a little different in the sense of surrounding intensity.

The hosts got their answer on LAFC facing the Galaxy away from home in Orlando, but LZ Granderson pressed further, “Do you feel like you guys run this town now, do you feel that? Or are you still little brother?”

“No no no, they’re holding on, they’re holding on to what they have left, you know what I mean, the fact that they keep having to bring up their five championships? Like I was in high-school when that happened, it’s in the past, we’ve got to focus on the present and the future now so, yeah – for them I think they’re really holding on and I got a little backlash the last time I said that from their supporters but I think it’s the honest truth, I think we’re here and LA’s our city.

When asked if the Galaxy feel the same without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and adding Chicharito this last offseason, Kaye remarked:

“There’s no way they have the same mentality about everything, you know, I think when you have a guy like Zlatan on the field he can change everything for you, I think they’re still trying to figure out playing with this kind of style they have with Chicharito, but they’re not stupid people, they understand where they stand in the position they’re in with us, so, I’m not surprised if they’re little fearful”.

Keyshawn doubled down on Kaye being happy that Zlatan was no longer on the team, and he clarified further.

“Yeah it’s not that I feel better, you know what I mean, he was kind of more annoying off the field than he was on the field, but that’s a great person to play against, and that was a great opportunity to have and now it’s like we can actually focus on the other players on the field, the other 21 players on the field, sometimes it was just all about him man, you know there’s some good players on the field and they don’t get the recognition.

On Kaye’s Personal Growth as a Leader

LZ Granderson aptly pointed out that Mark-Anthony earned his first captain’s armband in the Club’s last match against Houston, and quickly shifted the conversation into Kaye’s personal growth as a leader.

“Yeah, so, obviously in my first year coming into a new situation I wanted to absorb as much experience as possible from the players around me, you know, than obviously I had the bad injury. Then I go into my second year [last season] and Bob has a conversation with me where he wants me to be a leader, you know, and that was a great moment for me to have someone of his stature ask me to do something like that, that requires a lot of responsibility and you look at the year we had last year, it was great, and I felt like I was coming more into myself and having a bigger presence within the locker room and on the field as a leader. So, that was nice and, you know, even coming out of this quarantine situation I just knew that a lot of people were going to need to be motivated and you know, it was a difficult time and I just wanted  to support all my teammates as much as possible and I think the coaching staff realized that in individual training sessions, trying to push each other and stuff like that and I guess in the end I was rewarded the captain’s armband but it’s [sic] just understanding how to be a good person to the people you’re around. How to take the time to listen to what people have to say, because I think I’ve done a good job of having a connection with all my teammates, and, you know if that’s the reward, of having that captain’s armband it’s great, but it doesn’t change the way I interact with them on a daily basis. If anything, it just gives me more responsibility and I want to take care of all of them even more.

On the Advantage of Having a Team that Gets Along with Each Other

The hosts wanted to explore the benefits of having a team that actually gets along, a locker room on the same page, and if that provides a tactical advantage.

“One hundred percent. I think if you enjoy who you’re around all the time, the product is much better, you feel like there’s a deeper fight that you’re fighting for, and you know obviously we have a lot [sic] of different demographic on our team we have the Spanish [speaking] players, we have you know guys from all over Europe and I think it’s just finding the right way to deal with everyone so even though, yeah they made me captain, I lean on someone like Eduard [Atuesta] who is someone who can lead all of those other [Spanish speakers] and connect on that level that I can’t connect on and I think that’s part of good leadership is understanding when you need help in certain situations. So, yeah we have a really good connection and it’s just a good group, fun, young group of guys that are excited to push themselves to the next level.

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