LAFC open 2020 with preseason match against Peñarol

LAFC Preseason
LOS ANGELES, CA — OCTOBER 24: Latif Blessing #7 of Los Angeles FC shows off with the ball during the MLS Western Conference Semi-final between Los Angeles FC and Los Angeles Galaxy at the Banc of California Stadium on October 24, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles FC won the match 5-3 (Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images).

Review — LAFC kicked off season three with their first competitive match of 2020. The black and gold played host to South American super club, Peñarol. With most of the regular XI away on international duty, last night was a chance for some of the other players to make a case for regular play time. With plenty to discuss, let’s begin the review of LAFC’s preseason match.

LAFC Open 2020 With Preseason Match against South American Super Club, Peñarol

While last night may have been preseason, LAFC came out in midseason form — and with good reason. With regulars away, there is little time for LAFC to shake off any rust before jumping into CONCACAF Champions League play against Liga MX side León in just a couple of weeks.

The Match

With all due respect to the Uruguayan side, last night played more like a showcase for Los Angeles, and less like a competitive match between one of the world’s most successful clubs. From kickoff, LAFC flexed their improved possession and defending in the middle of the field, continued to make picturesque passes we’ve all grown accustomed to, picking up right where they left off.

It only took 10 minutes before the reigning MLS MVP made his presence felt. On the end of a brilliant set-up by Latif Blessing, Carlos Vela created the space he needed to put his famed left-foot to work. A perfect strike, led to a rising curler that lofted over the goalkeeper, finding its place in the back of the net.

In the 40th minute, it was forward Adrien Perez who doubled the lead, capping off an incredible first-half performance. When a Vela corner hit off the post, it was Perez who got hold of it and slotted it home for what ended up being the final goal of the match. The second half saw LAFC play a mixture of Academy players and draftees, with a couple of regulars sprinkled in. While they did have a few chances at goal, Peñarol never seemed to worry the home side. LAFC cruised to an early season win that left the entire Banc buzzing.

Breaking Out

While it wouldn’t be wise to jump to conclusions from the first preseason match of the new campaign, it was hard not to notice several players putting their stamp on proceedings and beginning to make a case form more game action. Perez was the name on everyone’s lips after putting in not just a great match, but great training period overall.

After head coach Bob Bradley praised the attacker on Friday, for putting in a great week of training, Perez rewarded the manager by netting his first goal of 2020. Speaking after the match, Bradley again spoke highly of his young attacker. “He works hard, and he continues to pick up ideas,” Bradley said. “I mentioned the other day, he’s had a good preseason.”

Breaking into the XI as an attacker in this squad can be a daunting task. However, that hasn’t deterred Perez.

“We’re the best team in the MLS, so the bar is up there, and I feel like, I love working hard,” he said. “I love pushing myself to the limit, so I don’t think it’s frustrating. It’s like a challenge, I love it.”

Perez finished last season in form, and it looks like he has carried that form into the new year. If he continue to impress in training as well as preseason, he could see himself in the XI more often than not.

Young and Restless

If there was one big takeaway from Saturday night’s match for LAFC, it’s the amount of talented young men they have within the club. With several Academy players on display, as well as draftees from this year’s SuperDraft, depth can be found. Whether they can continue to improve, and find themselves on the final roster heading into the season, remains to be seen.

However, if first impressions are anything to go on, not only do these youngsters have talent, they have flair — and it didn’t go unnoticed.

“With young guys, it’s not so much that they show leadership, it’s that they show some personality. They show they’re not afraid, and I think almost all of them stepped on the field, and you could see that,” Bradley said.

Indeed, they did show they were unafraid. Going after every 50/50 ball, not afraid to go one-on-one in attempts to create space and ultimately a shot. If one thing is clear after tonight, it’s that this team — top to bottom, rookie to veteran — is ready.

Outlook

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about last night, was LAFC was still without seven players who were held out either due to injury, or, as is the case for most, away on international duty. The biggest concern for LAFC this season, will be balancing fitness while participating in the CONCACAF Champion’s League. If LAFC can manage to stay healthy, they should once again find themselves as one of, if not outright favorites, to win everything they play for.

 

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