Heard a stat for the first time today before LAFC's preseason training match with the Columbus Crew. LAFC is undefeated in friendly/preseason matches in its history.
That is no longer true after Monday. But then again, it's just preseason. Wins and losses don't mean nearly as much as the process.
And speaking of the process, there were some meaningful things to take away from today's training match. So let's not waste any more time and get right to it:
Peaks And Valleys
Until this point in the preseason, LAFC has been the better side throughout a majority of its matches. But that's not to say there weren't moments when the focus wandered.
Against the Crew, it was the perfect example of LAFC controlling stretches from the onset and then struggling. And this time they were punished.
The Black & Gold started the match controlling the tempo with passes into their midfield trio and spaced the opponent through smart positional play. Despite the first goal coming off a Crew defender, the buildup was fluid. Alejandro Guido was played into a dangerous position, forcing the own goal. After the opener, LAFC created a few more opportunities through intricate movements but failed to find a second, and little by little, the Crew edged further up the field and LAFC's passing became labored and unimaginative.
As Columbus gained a foothold, LAFC never seemed to raise its level. Luckily, the half came with the score just 1-1. To start the second half, it was more of the same, LAFC came out flying but the Crew once against pushed back and this time there was no response.
It's still preseason, so the vast amount of substitutions definitely play a role in the ebb and flow of these matches. However, Bob Bradley will want to see his team able to suffer and then push back on opponents. It has to be part of a team's mentality going into the season, as there will be matches where opponents respond and LAFC will have to counter to wrestle back control of matches.
Learning On The Fly
A lot of people have been asking my opinion of Eddie Segura thus far. I'd been reluctant to assess a 22-year-old center back playing in a new country and with new teammates after just a week of training and one preseason match, but I'm starting to get an idea of what to expect from the Colombian.
Through three matches, Segura has seen the most playing time of any LAFC center back. He's been strong positionally and not afraid of the physical side of things.
Where I think he is learning most is in his transitional play and the buildup. In the buildup, he appears to still be getting accustomed to being on the ball so often and being asked to jumpstart LAFC's attack. You can also see the gears turning in his mind at times. He appears to be a decent passer though and I think it's just getting familiar with his teammates and the speed of play in this league. Which leads me to his need to improve in transition. Against Columbus, there were a few times he needed to turn and go, instead of facing up an opponent. In MLS, teams turn the ball over and go at speed right away. It's an adjustment for sure, but as Segura gets a feel for the style of play, I think he has the soccer IQ to make the adjustment.
Preseason Debuts On Debuts
Christian Ramirez, Mohamed El-Munir, and Mark-Anthony Kaye all made their LAFC preseason debuts against the Crew.
Ramirez returned from the U.S. Men's National Team friendlies and jumped right back into the LAFC lineup. And it looked like he never left. You could see the confidence in his play - the kind of boost you get from scoring your first USMNT goal - and he worked hard out of possession as well.
El-Munir also made his first start for LAFC. Playing on the left of a back four, the defender was involved early and often for LAFC as they dominated the first 25 minutes of the match. He faded a bit towards the end of the half, which could be due to him still regaining fitness and LAFC's lack of control as the half wore on.
As for Kaye, he took the pitch at Banc of California Stadium for the first time since July of 2018. The midfielder had a solid 30-minute stint in which he looked to be a catalyst for LAFC. Kaye did well to set the tempo for the Black & Gold. He looked confident getting on the ball in tight spaces and playing to a teammate in open areas. He even sent a few cross-field switches, which are a new component of his game.
Kaye tired a bit towards the end of his cameo - there's no substitute for match fitness. But as returns go, it was something positive to build off of for the midfielder.