For the first time since entering the MLS, LAFC have to do something many thought would never happen. The team that has secured record-setting wins, a couple of Supporter’s Shields, an MLS Cup, and been home to a few of the recent Golden Boot winners, will now have to do something almost unthinkable. Start over. There is no mistaking it, for the first time this club is facing a season in the midst of a rebuild.
3rd match of the preseason ends in a 0-1 loss. pic.twitter.com/P4uIS38o9G
— LAFC (@LAFC) February 8, 2024
The black & gold is no stranger to staring down seasons having departed with talent. It’s actually the way they like it at the club. They have long maintained they want to bring in young talent, cultivate, grow with them, hopefully win some trophies, and send them out to Europe as better players, ready to make a splash in world soccer. However, this season feels different. We went over last time just how many players they lost from a team that just two years ago was lifting the MLS Cup. In fairness, in just the last week the team has also added a handful of new players to come in and hopefully taker the baton for the club moving forward, but that also proves the point.
The term rebuild in sports has become such a bad word. It has become synonymous with losing. It is often viewed as a team punting on a season in the short term in the hopes of sustained success in the long term. That isn’t always the case, especially with a team like LAFC that has been here before, albeit not on a scale like this. Yesterday, after two matches held behind closed doors, we got to see the club in action as they went up against St. Louis City SC in their opening match of the Coachella Valley Invitational. While the final results in theses matches aren’t ever important (remember how they looked in the 2022 preseason), what is worth taking away from these matches are how the team looks as a whole.
“We have some work to do. We have new players to integrate.”
🎙️Steve Cherundolo pic.twitter.com/FwQna0XzQg
— LAFC (@LAFC) February 8, 2024
While only losing by one goal, the team very obviously looked like one that was put together a week ago. Chemistry between the second unit looked several levels better than the Starting XI, which shouldn’t shock considering that group has far more time together. The new arrivals looked like just that, new. New signings Hugo Lloris and Omar Campos took their place amongst the starters for this one and put in decent shifts despite the loss. The way the team played wasn’t lost on the players or coaching staff. “We’re starting to get more guys in camp and as we get the group together we’re starting to gel a little bit more. Hopefully the next two games we can start turning the corner, getting some results, and head into the season strong” said LAFC defender Aaron Long after the match.
Arrivals needing time to integrate themselves into not just a new system to learn with their new team, but having to adjust to life in a new city and for some, a new country, isn’t surprising. Yesterday’s result shouldn’t be overreacted to either. It was incredibly disappointing to see this side miss out on a trophy despite putting themselves in the position to win some, but the 2024 iteration of LAFC is an almost entirely new squad.
Unfortunately for impatient fans, it will take time before we see this club back to the sheer dominance we saw just a couple of years ago. Does that mean this team won’t be successful or win any trophies in the near future? Surely not. It does however, mean we will need to give this side some space to grow. Don’t let the panic seep in too fast, especially not over a result in the preseason.
Thoughts on your first look at the new squad? Leave a comment below!