Welcome to Season 3. How's this for preseason atmosphere?
New season, same 3252.
LAFC hosted South American giants Peñarol in an international friendly. The match kicked off the Black & Gold's preseason schedule as it builds up to a date with Léon in the Concacaf Champions League.
It was a preseason match, so there were tons of substitutions. Some good moments and others not so much. Lots of new faces. And something we've all become familiar with: an absolute beauty from Carlos Vela.
But as far as preseason matches go, LAFC hosting Peñarol was special. It's two clubs that have carved out a good relationship through player transfers, coming together on the pitch. Two passionate fanbases sharing a tailgate prior to the match and then showing how they support in the stands.
What I'm trying to say is... it's good to be back.
Here are the takeaways from LAFC's 2-0 preseason win over Peñarol:
Work In Progress
Carlos Vela's goal came after a nice interchange on the right with Latif Blessing. For stretches of the first half, Blessing and Vela's partnership on the right was the most dangerous thing LAFC had going.
Blessing was on the right because he started at right back, instead of his familiar position from last season in midfield. Of course, Blessing can play almost anywhere. And preseason is as good a time as any to get him reps in a position he might see a fair share of time in this season. But the result was LAFC fielding a midfield three that was unfamiliar with each other.
That hampered some of the positions LAFC worked the ball into. We didn't see the control through the center of the pitch that we've come accustomed to but the Black & Gold found other routes of attack as evidenced by Vela's goal.
Again, it's preseason and LAFC has three midfielders away on international duty, while Mark-Anthony Kaye was out of this match as he works his way back to full fitness. So not something to fret over, just something LAFC had to contend with on the night. In the end, they still were able to find the goals they needed.
Show Some Personality
I wonder if some people didn't even realize it. But from the 31st minute to the final whistle, LAFC had at least two Academy players on the pitch at all times.
People might not have realized because they didn't play like kids. From the moment they stepped on the pitch they embraced something Bob Bradley preached from Day 1 of LAFC's first preseason: show your personality on the pitch.
They went into challenges, took chances, forced the action, and looked the part.
You get the feeling after tonight that LAFC is ahead of schedule. Not just in being successful and winning trophy after just two seasons. And not because Academy players were involved with the first team. Ahead in forging the identity of the Club. Its ethos.
The culture of a Club can take years and years to codify. You can say it and wish for it, it's another thing to see it and believe it. Watching those kids come up to the first team, daring to play and compete without fear, we're seeing a culture take hold in real-time.
Speaking Of Club Culture
How cool was this?
These kids are definitely alright.
LAFC First Half Lineup: Kenneth Vermeer - Latif Blessing, Dejan Jaković, Tristan Blackmon, Diego Palacios - Kevon Lambert***, Alejandro Guido (Erik Dueñas* 31'), Josh Pérez - Carlos Vela, Brian Rodríguez (Christian Torres* 31'), Adrien Perez.
LAFC Second Half Lineup: Pablo Sisniega - Mohamed El-Munir, Jordan Harvey, Tony Leone* (Diego Rosales* 68'), Erik Dueñas* (Younes Boudadi** '62) - Jordan Schweitzer***, Bryce Duke, Jorge Gonzalez** - Christian Torres* (Junior Flemmings*** 62') (Armando Avila* 83'), Jack Hallahan**, Adama Diomande.
* - LAFC Academy
** - LAFC SuperDraft Selection
*** - On Loan From Phoenix Rising FC