LAFC are the new kids on the block this season, and boy do they have me excited. They’ve got a proven and familiar coach in Bob Bradley and they’ve done a surprisingly good job in building a talented squad with proven internationals. I’d say that they’ve got a fair chance to pull off what Atlanta United did in their inaugural season. However, it won’t be easy…
Offseason Grade: A
For being a brand-new club, I am highly impressed with the player acquisitions made by the directors at LAFC. Carlos Vela is a proven international attacker with an eye for goal. They’ve got their No. 10 in Benny Feilhaber, along with consistent MLS performers such as Aaron Kovar, Jordan Harvey, and Steven Beitashour. They’ll have good competition between the sticks with 2017 Gold Cup veteran Luis Lopez and former Sounder Tyler Miller. In my opinion, the icing on the cake should be their starting center-back pairing. They picked up Laurent Ciman in an absolute steal of a trade with Montreal, and acquired upcoming U.S. international Walker Zimmerman from FC Dallas. The Belgian brings years of experience both inside and out of MLS and Zimmerman is still young and will hopefully be a leader in the team for years to come. On top of that, they’ve got Bob Bradley on the sidelines. The only complaint I have is depth: they still need to pick up a few players at just about every position in order to establish good competition and cover.
Key Player: Laurent Ciman
I really like what LAFC has done with Carlos Vela, and he will undoubtedly be a crucial player, but the dominant and mature play of Laurent Ciman will take the team farther on and off the field. Like I said, Ciman has years of experience inside and outside of MLS, and with a player of his experience and caliber, he will be able to lead this fledgling team through the good times and the bad. They will need a player like him desperately. Not to mention, with Zimmerman and Beitashour alongside him on the backline, they have potential to be a stalwart defensive core in the league.
Best Case Scenario: Make the Playoffs
This fledgling team has grown their squad nicely and has the quality to make the playoffs, if they add depth. I think any expansion team would consider it a great success to make the playoffs in their inaugural season. They’ll look to Atlanta for the perfect example of a first season.
Bold Prediction: Western Conference Finalists
My bold prediction is LAFC making the Western Conference Championship. Like I said, their offseason acquisitions and coach have the talent and experience to lead them on a playoff run. However, I think that my prediction will come down to two things: game-experience and squad depth. The obvious problem is that this squad will have hardly any quality game-time as a team. They’ll have been practicing together, but there will surely be learning curves and bumps in the road as they look to figure out their team identity and playing style. The second issue will be squad depth. If Bob Bradley can build some quality depth in his team, then their chances to make the postseason a success. It’s a long, hot season. Playing through the southern California summer won’t make things any easier. Fix these two issues and I’d have no issue seeing them make a deep playoff run.