Eduard Atuesta Thanks Pablo Sisniega 190620 IMG

#LAFCMailBag | Trades, Concacaf Champions League & More

You've got questions. I've got answers.

We're less than 24 hours away from LAFC's home leg against León in the Concacaf Champions League. And we're just four days away from kicking off the MLS season against Inter Miami CF.

It's been another busy offseason. Lots of incoming players. A few outgoing players. And tons of new storylines for the Black & Gold. 

So, what better way to kick off Season 3 than with another edition of the #LAFCMailbag:

What’s the most impactful change we can make on Thursday to give us the best chance to pull an upset against Leon? - @juandrful

Execute. Plain and simple.

Against León, we saw a lot of ideas. What was missing was that bit of sharpness to make it count on the scoresheet. 

Having even just one competitive match under its belt should help in that regard. Also, nine days and a lot of training sessions in between matches will help. 

We saw Atlanta United look significantly sharper in the second leg of its CCL tie. I think that's something that bodes well for LAFC and the rest of the MLS teams in the competition, as the rust was evident.

Will Lafc be better prepared for the season opener on Sunday with 2 games under their belt or will fatigue set in for them like SKC last year. #LAFCMailbag - @LAFCMemo

I probably sound like a broken record at this point. But there is no substitute for match fitness. So, in that regard, LAFC will definitely be ahead of its competition to start the season. And that's twofold, it's both fitness and sharpness. Playing competitive minutes as a unit is also going to be an advantage.

All that being said, LAFC will have just four days between facing León and opening the MLS season against Inter Miami CF. Some changes will be likely. But LAFC looks more prepared this season to use its depth. A player like Bryce Duke could easily see substantial minutes or even José Cifuentes. 

The ability to rotate the squad this season will be a major benefit to LAFC. As is having two more matches than its competition.

Do you think LAFC is already on budget mode? Hear me out why protect sisniega & not Lee if u planned on signing a new keeper? Easy way to get him off the books. Got rid of ramirez, even though we needed a ST. Now Zimmerman with no follow-up move. Or not resigning or signing a RB - @mikj48

(Author's Note: There were more than a few questions about the Walker Zimmerman trade and acquiring a right back.)

Every MLS team has a budget. In fact, they have two budgets.

There's a budget for Designated Players. It's unlimited in MLS terms, meaning a team isn't capped on how much it can spend to acquire the players via transfer fees and salaries. Of course, MLS teams don't have unlimited resources. Some invest more than others in this area. LAFC has three DPs and a strategy of the types of players they will pursue in this regard. 

For the purposes of this question, we'll set that budget aside. Because what we're really talking about is the budget that pertains to the MLS salary cap. And within that, we're also talking about things like allocation money and ways you can supplement the mandated cap.

In the MLS Expansion Draft, LAFC made the tough choice of leaving Lee Nguyen unprotected. When you're a team that has as much talent as LAFC and it's an Expansion Draft year, you're bound to leave a very good player unprotected. Was it done as a part of "budget mode" though? Nguyen does make a salary above the maximum budget charge, forcing LAFC to use allocation money to "buy down" his salary. But when you consider that LAFC signed two young talents from South America, Francisco Ginella and José Cifuentes, less than a month after losing Nguyen and at a considerably higher cost in terms of allocation money to acquire both, it wouldn't seem LAFC left Nguyen unprotected for money purposes as much as it was because they had scouted and been working deals ahead of time to strengthen the midfield - which was an area the team would have needed strengthening regardless if it could have kept Nguyen.

As for Sisniega, he's young and not yet in his prime. But he's also a proven backup. That's not easy to find in this league, especially one you can possibly groom into a starter down the line.

The Zimmerman trade is interesting because of how MLS rules work. Even if LAFC had sold Zimmerman to Europe for $10 million, they would have received a maximum of $750,000 in GAM, an amount between $200,000 - $500,000 less than they received in the trade. So in terms of adding flexibility to its roster, a trade within MLS was more valuable. Did it come together quickly? Absolutely. Nashville made an offer LAFC couldn't refuse. But LAFC was in a position that it felt was strong in terms of center-back depth. And the significant amount the received in return gives them more flexibility now and in the future - keep in mind, GAM is just flexibility within the salary, LAFC saves money by getting Zimmerman's salary off the books but it's not like you can put GAM in a bank account if you are in "budget mode."

That's a multitude of moves made that provided flexibility within the salary cap but by no means put LAFC in "budget mode" this season or in the future. 

As for not having another move prepared? I'd keep your eyes open on that.