A little over two weeks have elapsed in the 2019 preaseason. LAFC has already played three matches, winning two, and it feels like it's flown by so far. But this weekend, the Black & Gold will have what is likely going to be their toughest test to date, as defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United come to town for a closed-door friendly.
Of course, no team aims to win the preseason. The primary concern is readiness for when three points are on the line. But the chance to measure yourself against an opponent of a certain caliber is an important litmus test in certain areas as LAFC head into week three.
"Very excited for the match against Atlanta. It’s a chance to see where we stand against a team that won MLS Cup last year," Bob Bradley said after training on Thursday. "So, it’s something we are looking forward to."
In speaking about how his team has approached preseason thus far, Bradley was optimistic with the reporters that gathered after training. He noted that each training session has produced good results and he'd seen his fair share of positive things in each of the three friendlies the team has played to this point. With much of the core from last season's team carrying over to 2019, Bradley was particularly impressed with how the newcomers to camp have come along.
"I’ve been very happy with the way the new players have picked up the ideas. I think we’ve seen in a couple of the friendly matches some stretches of good football where a larger number of new guys are on the field," Bradley said. "That’s a sign that they’ve got talent and they understand the things we try to do as a team. For me, that’s been a really good part of preseason."
With his team's work is trending in the right direction, Bradley again mentioned his team's ability to collectively grasp the fundamentals of the style of play he and his coaching staff are drilling each day. As Bradley's football ideas continue to solidify in the team's play each time they take the pitch, the onus is now on players continuing to strengthen physically and mentally.
"In preseason, you’re first trying to establish your game model, so that every time you step on the field the things that you try to do when you have the ball, the way you connect passes, the ideas in terms of creating chances, recognition of situations when the ball turns over. So the game model part, you want to have there from the beginning. I’m happy with that," Bradley said. "But being able to sustain it for 90 minutes is still a big challenge. So far, I see the level drop, in some cases it’s because a few guys become tired, that’s normal, and then all of a sudden, options off the ball aren’t as obvious, guys aren’t as quick to be where they need to be, quality of the some of the passes and some of the first touches go down."
Then again, you can't expect all that to happen in just over two weeks. But Bradley knows his players are aware of the task ahead of them prior to LAFC's opening match of the 2019 season against Sporting KC.
"There’s not a guy here that would tell you he’s as sharp as he can be," Bradley said.
"I think the work has been good. I think most guys are moving in a good direction, but I don’t think anybody at this point in preseason is at their best."
News & Notes
- LAFC's preseason roster now stands at 28. M Baggio Husidic, M Conor O'Brien, M Kevin Mendoza, and F Ricky-Lopez Espin have all departed camp, leaving M Javi Pérez, M Peter-Lee Vassell, M Alejandro Guido, D Lamar Batista, G Wade Hamilton, G Phillip Ejimadu, and F Adrien Perez as the draftees and invitees vying for a 2019 roster spot.
- There's one jersey switch of note for next season. Christian Ramirez will wear No. 21 for LAFC in 2019.
- Rodolfo Zelaya has been training with the team for the first time this week. Bob Bradley noted Zelaya had a slight break before arriving at LAFC, so he has been starting training with the full group before doing individual work on the side to reach full fitness.
- Also in LAFC camp this week is Danilo Silva. Silva was delayed by work visa issues. Despite being held up prior to the start of camp, Silva was working out individually and has been able to join the full group for training.