Bob Bradley entered the press conference room clearly despondent.
In the Club’s first home derby, Bradley had seen his side go from 2-0 up entering the 82nd minute to dropping points in a disappointing draw. But the result wasn’t on the forefront of the LAFC head coach’s mind.
“I’ll start with the worst news of the night, it’s Mark-Anthony Kaye. He fractured the inside part of his ankle and will get surgery, so that part had me in a bad mood since I got the report at halftime," Bradley said after the match.
Twenty matches into his first MLS season, Kaye had become a regular starter in LAFC’s midfield and emerged as one of the bright, young talents of 2018. The timing of Kaye’s season-ending injury notwithstanding, Bradley’s comments after the 2-2 draw highlighted the midfielder’s integral presence in the team.
On Monday, LAFC confirmed that importance by signing Kaye to a three-year contract extension.
“Mark-Anthony is a talented player who proved his importance to our team in our inaugural season that was only interrupted due to an unfortunate injury,” LAFC EVP of Soccer Operations and General Manager John Thorrington said. “He possesses the commitment and ability to be a building block for our future, and we are confident the best is yet to come.”
Aside from the obvious, the travesty of Kaye’s injury that night against the Galaxy was momentum-related. Since joining LAFC from USL side Louisville City FC, the midfielder had enjoyed a steady upwards trajectory. It’s both a testament to LAFC’s commitment to identifying and developing young talent and the 24-year-old’s desire to optimize his potential.
Happy to announce that I’ve signed a new 3 year deal with @lafc. This a big moment for me and my family and everyone who’s supported me along the way. I’m so grateful for this. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career and I feel like this another step in the right direction.— Mark-Anthony Kaye (@MarkThEwizz) December 3, 2018
“From the time that we got him in preseason you could see he was open, he listened, and he applied ideas. I think throughout the season, until his injury, he was improving week by week,” Bradley said of Kaye. “For us a really important player, a great guy, very smart, and one of the best things is how he is committed to his team and teammates. So, there is a really bright future and he is going to be back better next year.”
Kaye arrived at LAFC as a left-sided attacker with a high upside after a championship season in Louisville, but essentially without a permanent home on the pitch - sometimes versatility is a curse like that. He was slotted in at left back on his first day with the Club, then quickly moved to fill a void in midfield the next day. It was a precursor to Kaye’s willingness to contribute to the team in any capacity.
The rest of the League became aware of Kaye the same day LAFC began its maiden voyage in MLS. It’s not uncommon for an expansion team to start any number of players without high-level experience, but for a player to prove he belongs from the opening whistle is an eye opener for fans and pundits alike.
Using the Seattle match as a springboard, Kaye was commanding at times in the center of the pitch this season. The midfielder’s superior range provides cover for teammates and is vital in transition moments for LAFC. While he’s still sharpening his decision making in the final third, Kaye’s two goals and five assists this season showcased his potential to control matches on both sides of the ball.
But it’s been Kaye’s willingness to humble himself and be open to challenges that has been his biggest asset in his first top-flight season. And despite the abrupt ending to 2018, it is that attribute LAFC is banking on in the years to come.
“Mark is a really important player for us,” Bradley said after the player’s contract extension. “From the start - he was open, he listened, and he applied our ideas. Before the injury, he was improving week by week.
“He has a bright future and I believe he will be back better than ever next year.”