As always, Alicia gave us a great update on how LAFC has been doing since the two teams last met. I also answered a few of her questions which you can find over at their place.
LAFC has been very good so far under new coach Steve Cherundolo, as the team is undefeated with three wins and a draw. How has the team looked stylistically under Cherundolo?
Alicia Rodriguez: All in all, the change to Cherundolo compared to Bob Bradley has been more evolution than revolution. LAFC still prioritize attacking and try to dominate opponents, but so far this season they’ve shown more balance and defense has not been an absolute liability. Some of that comes from the club bringing in more MLS experience in the off-season, and most notably, the acquisition of goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was not only needed, but he brings a confidence and assurance between the posts that LAFC really have not previously had.
So, with the approach more sensibly balanced, the attack is still given the keys to try to rack up the score, but if they’re not winning 4-0, the bright side is it looks like this team is more capable of battling to a narrow result, too, which wasn’t always the case under Bradley.
The good start has largely been done without Cristian Arango, who got 14 goals and two assists in 17 games last year but has only played 147 minutes in 2022. Do you expect to see more of him going forward, or will Carlos Vela continue to feature at striker as opposed to starting out wide?
AR: The situation with Arango remains a mystery. He tested positive for COVID at the very start of preseason, and that scuppered a call-up to the Colombian national team, which certainly was a bummer for him. I suspect he’s also been dealing with a knock in preseason too, since he didn’t play a ton then, but as the weeks stretch on into the regular season, it’s unclear whether he’s dealing with physical issues or if Cherundolo does not favor him right now. If it’s the latter, that’s pretty weird, since Arango would appear to be the player capable of picking up the scoring load if Vela is unavailable. On one hand, youngster Kwadwo Opoku has been getting the playing time in Arango’s place and he’s been doing really well, including scoring the game-winner in Miami a few weeks back, but the status of Arango remains a mystery and perhaps we can find out more soon.
Kellyn Acosta was a big off-season signing by LAFC this year. How has he adjusted to life so far?
AR: I think Acosta has been solid so far. He was part of a wave of MLS-experienced players to join the club in the off-season, and while I’m not discounting his contributions, I think Crepeau has been the most significant addition so far. But I think Acosta will be a regular starter, and it appears he may get moved around, as he played LAFC’s last game at right back instead of his customary midfield position. I hope there’s not a revolving door of fill-in right backs this season (LAFC had major problems with the same position two years ago) but it is nice to have an international who can play multiple roles on the field and has a two-way game the team needs.
Are there any injuries suspensions or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
AR: No suspensions, I don’t expect anyone will be unavailable with the international window ending before the weekend, and on the injury front it’s too soon to say since we haven’t had an updated report for a couple weeks. Stay tuned on that.
Projected XI (4-3-3): Maxime Crepeau; Franco Escobar, Jesus David Murillo, Mamadou Fall, Ryan Hollingshead; Kellyn Acosta, Ilie Sanchez, Jose Cifuentes; Carlos Vela, Kwadwo Opoku, Brian Rodriguez.
No score prediction provided.
Big thanks to Alicia for the excellent info on LAFC. Vamos Orlando!