Academy Coach Clipboard

LAFC Expands Academy And Welcomes New Youth Coaches

The LAFC Academy has added two new age groups, U-13 and U-14, bringing the total to three LAFC Academy teams for the 2017-18 Academy season (U-12, U-13, U-14). 

LAFC has also announced its coaching staff for the club’s youth development program. The impressive six-member coaching staff represents diverse backgrounds and both national, and international experience in youth soccer development. Each staff member is committed to developing the next generation of players to the highest global standards and creating a pipeline to LAFC’s First Team.

Academy Director Todd Saldaña, who has a strong background in scouting, coaching, and developing players at the youth, MLS, and US National Team levels, has assembled a talented coaching staff and will be leading their efforts to scout and develop players for LAFC. LAFC’s Academy coaches and scouts are entering a heavy recruitment period in the coming weeks to build out the U12-U14 teams to prepare for the 2017-18 season.

“The establishment of our LAFC Academy is a critical component of our soccer operation,” said John Thorrington, Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations. “Ownership has shown great commitment to help us achieve our goal to develop world-class players and people. I’m confident that our new coaching team has the requisite experience, expertise, and passion to match our ambitious plans.”

“We could not be more proud of the quality and diversity of the coaches we recruited to the Academy at such an exciting time in our club’s growth,” said Todd Saldaña, LAFC Academy Director. “Their experience and success both on and off the field will provide our players with the support they will need to develop into elite soccer players.

LAFC’s Academy is a fully financed program that not only provides greater access to the game for the community but also a professional pathway for elite players in the region. 


Enrique Duran — Player Development and Methodology Advisor

Enrique, native of Cataluña in Spain, brings his expertise in global youth development to LAFC. He comes to us from TOVO Academy, which supported LAFC’s players and staff during its first pre-season training period. Enrique will collaborate with Todd Saldana, Academy Director, to develop the curriculum and player development strategy for LAFC’s Academy.  Enrique holds a UEFA ‘A’ License and comes to LAFC with a wealth of international experience, including FC Barcelona, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

Cristiano Scapolo — Academy Coach 

Originally from Italy, Cristiano has over 15 years of professional playing experience in Italy’s prestigious Serie ‘A’ with prestigious clubs such as Napoli, Bologna, Inter Milan and Roma.  Most recently, Cristiano was the Technical Director at Real SoCal-SCV in Santa Clarita, as well as a Scout for US Youth and Men’s National teams. Cristiano holds a UEFA B Coaching license and NSCAA Advance Diploma, is finalizing his USSF B license, and is also attending the AC Milan Academy Master Course in Milan, Italy.

Luciano Fusco — Academy Coach

A native of Argentina, Luciano is the Head Coach for LAFC’s 2017 Fall U12 team currently being assembled.  Luciano is currently the Assistant Coach at UCLA and recently joined the U.S. U16 National Team on its international trip to Argentina.   He has professional playing experience in Mexico and Argentina, along with previous Development Academy coaching success De Anza Force. He holds the NSCAA Premier Diploma.

Neil Thompson — Head Goalkeeper Coach 

Originally from England, Neil has joined LAFC as its Academy Goalkeeper Coach. Neil has a professional playing background in England with the likes of Hull City, as well as experience in the UEFA Cup. Since being in the US, Neil has made his coaching mark at the Academy, Collegiate and National team levels. Most recently in Chicago, Neil was an assistant coach at Division I Loyola University, as well as the Goalkeeping Director at Sockers FC in the US Development Academy. Neil is working with Brad Friedel and the U.S. U-19 National Team, and is also the Goalkeeper Coach for the U.S. Soccer Training Centers. With a vast amount of experience, Neil will continue to identify and develop top goalkeepers at LAFC.

Joe Pehanich — Academy Development Coach 

Joe, an LA native, is charged with identifying and developing players in the pre-Academy age groups. Joe also assists Academy teams during training and match days. Joe currently holds the USSF “B” license and has previously worked as a Director in the Development Academy.  Joe brings a strong understanding of the Los Angeles youth soccer landscape to our Academy, and furthers our player identification and development process at the younger age groups.

Fabian Sandoval — Academy Coach 

Born in Compton, California, Fabian assists all Academy teams, and helps identify and develop potential Academy players. Fabian is currently an Assistant Coach at Cal State LA, and brings valuable experience as both a former collegiate and professional player, as well as a current collegiate coach. With strong ties to the LA community, and knowledge of the youth soccer landscape across our region, Fabian adds an important layer to player identification and talent development inside our LAFC Academy. Fabian has his Bachelor’s Degree in Spanish with a minor in Chicano Studies from Cal State Bakersfield, and he holds the USSF “A” license.