Two clubs in the midst of preseason. Two clubs with big expectations in 2020.
When LAFC takes on Peñarol on Saturday night at Banc of California Stadium, they'll take the first step in what has been a vastly accelerated 2020.
Consider this. LAFC plays an international competitor at home less than one month before traveling to Mexico to embark on its first campaign in the Concacaf Champions League. That feeling of rushing towards a big moment in Club history has permeated nearly every bit of Club's mindest since starting its preseason just two weeks ago.
Peñarol is the winningest side in the history of Uruguay. And in the upper echelons all of South American football with its five Copa Libertadores trophies and record-tying three Intercontinental Cups. But after reigning over Uruguay's top-flight in two consecutive seasons, they find themselves looking to reclaim the top spot following a second-place finish behind rivals Nacional.
Both Bob Bradley and Diego Forlán will be using every opportunity to assess their teams. This night will be no different.
Here are the Toyota Keys to the Match for LAFC's international friendly with Uruguayan powerhouse Peñarol:
It's Just The Start
Probably the top of the list of things you want going into the season is a crescendoing level of fitness.
The baseline for that fitness is done in training, while matches are to sharpen those levels. There's no substitute for match fitness. So most guys will have to build towards it having not played competitively since the end of October.
It's important for the LAFC players to properly communicate with the technical and performance staffs leading up to and during the match. Guys need to aim to be active and near peak intensity for the time they are on the pitch, while also being cognizant of how their bodies react.
Within the LAFC's style of play is inherent the notion of taking risks. Players are expected to be the protagonists in matches, not simply reacting to the other team. Every day in training, Bob Bradley and his coaching staff preach the need to keep your mind active in the match. The right number of touches, when to pass and when to dribble, when to press the issue and when to maintain possession. There's no set answer to any of these issues players face on the pitch. All of these things concepts should give players in the squad ample opportunity to leave a mark on the match.
If you can't find yourself inspired by the thought of playing at Banc of California Stadium, against a club of the history and stature of Peñarol, then you might need to reconsider some life choices.
As friendlies go, this has to be as good as it gets. As the first match to start a preseason, you might not find a better challenge for both teams. It's a football moment and a cultural exchange. When you rep the Black & Gold of LAFC or the Yellow & Black of Peñarol, it stands for something. And first and foremost, it's about the football.
Enjoy it. Don't leave the pitch feeling like you didn't show your football.