Trying something new this week, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the response. Thank you to everyone that sent in your questions to the inaugural edition of the #AskLAFC Mailbag.
Because there were so many questions - honestly, I thought I'd get one or two from coworkers just messing around - I'm not going to be able to get to everyone here this week. So if you don't see your question answered, I'm not ignoring you, it just might take me a until next week to get an answer for you. And for the rest, check your Twitter mentions. After writing, I decided to answer a few bonus questions there.
So let's jump right in:
Who do you think is going to be #1 Striker going forward from here? I think think we play overall better when we have Ureña up top opening up spaces but a lot of people seem to want him benched. Will we ever see 2 strikers playing at the same time? - @catmandoustin
Between Marco Ureña, Christian Ramirez, and Adama Diomande, LAFC has three high-level strikers capable of cracking the starting 11 for most teams in MLS. And each of them brings something different to the table. Ureña pulls defenders all over the pitch with his aggressive runs, Ramirez is more of a poacher/box finisher, and Dio is a bit of a hybrid of the two that can also participate in the build up. Having all three gives Bob Bradley options depending on the opponent and form of the players. It's less about establishing a No. 1 striker and more about ongoing competition between the three to get on the pitch.
As for seeing two strikers on the field, in late game situations with the team down a goal, we've seen Dio and Ureña on the pitch together briefly. And we could see it more in those instances. But from the start of the match, I think it's unlikely because of how it unbalances the formation. LAFC don't necessarily have traditional wingers in Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi. Throwing two up top and asking them to adjust really isn't something sustainable over 90 minutes.
What’s the deal with Dio. Would have been a great target with 20 minutes to go. Saw reports that he was back to full fitness, but didn’t see him on the bench. - @jimmyenes
This is where the difference between full fitness and game fitness comes into play. Adama Diomande returned to full training last week with LAFC after missing matches against the Galaxy and Toronto FC. Because he was training without any restrictions, he was available for selection. However, he hasn't played a full 90 minutes in over a month, in addition to being out of training prior to last week. I think if it was absolutely necessary, he would have played. But with other options further along in their fitness at the time, the prudent thing to do is to keep monitoring Dio in training and build him up before throwing him back out there.
Who would be a perfect fit as a designated player to hold our midfield? - @jesse032711
I know where this is going. The "LAFC need a defensive midfielder" topic always seems to come up after a mixed result. Take the goal New England scored on Saturday. That's the result of a set piece not being fully cleared and then as player are trying to get out of the box, they don't pick up their marks as the ball is whipped back in. A defensive midfielder isn't going to stop that.
But to answer the question. I think it's interesting the way the necessity of a defensive midfielder has lodged its way into our lexicon. First came the idea that teams needed to balance their sides with a "destroyer" and "creator" in midfield. Then teams took it to the next step of having two defensive midfielders in centrally and then wingers add creativity from midfield. But even though the game has evolved once again, some pundits - this is Bobby Warshaw's favorite topic - insist teams can't properly defend without at least one "destroyer" on the field.
Bob Bradley's passing-oriented style necessitates complete players in midfield, although each has a role they lean towards. So for LAFC, Eduard Atuesta is the more defensive of the midfield three, but he's not solely a "destroyer," so people think LAFC play without a defensive midfielder. For the style LAFC are built for, a player like Atuesta that can pass and pick his spots to get forward makes the most sense. All three midfielders are asked to pass and move and be responsibly positionally, so at any point a different one can be closer to the backline. But no matter what, all three are asked to defend - the idea you have a player solely concerned with defense, or offense for that matter, is not in the cards for LAFC. Here's Bradley on that same topic from an article last month with MLSsoccer.com's Sam Stejskal:
“I think that the understanding of those three and the way that they can make small exchanges so that there’s options to play the ball becomes important if you want to try to play from the back, if you want to try to play from one side to the other, play from outside in and all these kind of things. The understanding of how players move in conjunction with each other, I think you see that in any good midfield combination. So, we work on those ideas. It’s been part of the work that I’ve tried to do with many of the teams that I’ve coached.”
All that being said... If we were in a world where LAFC could get a fourth Designated Player, and it had to be a defensive midfielder, I would swoop for Jorginho from Chelsea - I'd fly out to get him myself if necessary. So that's my answer to that hypothetical.
What could we do as fans to help recruit @AntoGriezmann to come to @LAFC? - @Crazyfello
Keep doing what you are doing.
I've talked to quite a few players this season that have arrived from around the world at LAFC, and one of the first things they mention are the world-class facilities from the training ground to Banc of California Stadium. It's clear LAFC's infrastructure can compete with any club in the world. That part can't be underestimated. Players like to feel comfortable in training and they definitely care about the quality of the stadium they are playing in. So LAFC checks those boxes already for world-class players - let's not forget, LAFC sent the most players from MLS to the World Cup this year, so there's quite a few top quality players already here.
But atmosphere inside the stadium is something you can't buy. And LAFC Supporters have shown in a short period they can create something that rivals the support of teams that have been established for decades. If this season is just the start of that, then fans just have to keep building on it.