When I saw it, I yelled in the press box. I was politely asked to lower my voice, but I couldn’t help it. On Saturday against Orlando City, LAFC had a bench that consisted: Charlie Lyon, Dejan Jaković, João Moutinho, Tristan Blackmon, Diego Rossi, Marco Ureña, and Carlos Vela.
For those of you keeping track at home, that’s two designated players, two World Cup participants, a national team captain, and two top-three draft picks on the bench. And on the pitch, the record-holder for goals to start an MLS career in Adama Diomande, 50-50 club member Lee Nguyen, and slew of internationals in Benny Feilhaber, Walker Zimmerman, Steven Beitashour, Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Laurent Ciman.
“It means we have a deeper team,” Bob Bradley said after the match when asked about having Ureña and Vela back. “It means we have more competition. It means that at times when you have to make subs at important moments in the game, you have very good guys to bring on. It makes training better every day, the deeper your team is.
“If you talk about making more good football, then you want to do it every day in training. And the more good players you have, the more guys compete in training, the better chance you have to make it all come together.”
And I haven’t even mentioned André Horta, yet. The Club’s third Designated Player wasn’t on the pitch or bench on Saturday. He’s been training with the team and will be available for selection when the secondary transfer window opens on July 10.
But right now, I can already hear it. The same ones screaming about the LAFC’s lack of depth to start its inaugural season are now changing their tune to, “Well, how is Bradley going to make this all work?”
Against Orlando City, Bradley sent Vela and Rossi onto the pitch in the 64th minute for Kaye and Aaron Kovar and the score at 2-1. LAFC had a midfield of Feilhaber and Nguyen, with Vela, Rossi, Blessing, and Diomande in front of them. That’s six players that are all good on the ball. Six players that all love to attack.
And that’s been the through line of Bradley’s philosophy all season. He wants to see good football. That means players that can move opponents around the pitch, players that can control matches with the ball at their feet, and a team that entertains.
Bradley’s subs against Orlando City didn’t disappoint. LAFC pushed forward in search of goals to kill off the match. The one-goal advantage became a 4-1 victory, the second consecutive home result by that scoreline. And with his final change, Bradley sent on his second World Cup returnee in Ureña.
With depth comes decisions. There will be players fighting for spots and players on the bench that could be in most starting 11s in MLS. Depth is a weapon though. And Bradley is no stranger to tough choices. After all, he had to make the final say on the 23-man USMNT roster for the 2010 World Cup.
If anyone knows how to deal with LAFC’s depth going forward, it’s him.