Saturday, January 25, Los Angeles Football Club’s twitter page sent out a friendly reminder to its followers — “We’re back at The Banc tonight, come prepared.”
Football in LA is back.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday night, Uruguay’s most storied team Club Atlético Peñarol will join LAFC at Banc of California Stadium to inaugurate the preseason. Less than four weeks from its first official match on Feb. 18 in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico.
Ahead of the preseason, El Paisano takes a look into what’s been going on during the offseason. As well as what the goals are for 2020.
“Boom!” Is The Mantra
In LAFC.com’s first “State of the Union” address of 2020 featuring LAFC’s play-by-play broadcaster Max Bretos and president/co-owner Tom Penn, Bretos asked Penn what the mantra for the 2020 season will be. His response, “Boom!”
“I want to see us explode,” Penn said. “I want to see a giant step forward in every metric that we have. Our young kids are getting better. We led the league in minutes played by young players, all of that should continue to pay off and we can still improve in all aspects of the club.”
Seeing the club come into its “full fruition” is president Penn’s main objective. What exactly is the club’s full fruition? According to Penn, winning the MLS Cup is the clear target. Succeeding in the Champions League is also important in order to thrive among the best and represent the Americas in future tournaments. Like Mexico’s Club de Futbol Monterrey did in December during the FIFA Club World Cup.
“John (Thorrington, LAFC general manager) and Bob (Bradley, LAFC head coach) aren’t either or, they’re ‘and’ guys, they want both,” Penn said about the priority of tournaments up ahead.
LAFC is returning all but three players from last year’s main bunch. Midfielder Lee Nguyen was picked by Inter Miami in the expansion draft. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller was traded to Minnesota United for allocation money. And right-back Steven Beitashour wasn’t offered a contract. LAFC replaced Miller quickly with veteran Dutchman Kenneth Vermeer while midfielders Jose Cifuentes, from Ecuador’s America de Quito, and Francisco Ginella, from Uruguay’s Montevideo Wanderers, were brought in to fill the midfield.
Additionally, forward Danny Musovski, who spent 2019 playing in the USL Championship for Reno 1868 FC, was brought on to add something to the attack behind Adama Diomande.
Blackmon’s Position To Lose
Unable to hang on to Nguyen and Beitashour while trading away its starting goalkeeper seemed like a failure initially. After securing Ginella and Vermeer, it seems right-back will be the most neglected position on the roster. Enter third-year pro Tristian Blackmon — LAFC’s second ever draft pick, selected no. 3 in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.
Jan. 8, Blackmon was gifted for his 18 regular season appearances (15 starts) in 2019 with a three-year contract. This allowed LAFC to save money by not having to sign Beitashour as well. The idea is that Blackmon can fill in smoothly. Despite the lack of natural right-backs on the roster, competing with Blackmon will be returner Mohamed El-Munir and August 2019 signing Diego Palacios (both left-backs). With central defenders Dejan Jakovic and Eddie Segura also able to fill in on the right side of the backline.
Improving from last season seems like a long shot following an historic 2019 season. Rather than looking to improve on points and goals, though, the club needs to correct its mistakes that have haunted them two years running — finishing off significant runs in the regular season with a championship.
In 2020, LAFC will feature in three tournaments that’ll give Bradley and his men a chance to win a championship. The CCL, MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. LAFC may not be clear favorites for all three but, with the likes of Carlos Vela, Eduard Atuesta and Latif Blessing leading the attack, they’re considered a contender to win at least one of them this time around.
“I want to see it come to its full fruition,” Penn told Bretos, “I want to see us go ‘BOOM’.”