LOS ANGELES — With the first week of preseason training winding down, LAFC took its first heat check ahead of the 2019 MLS season — a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC. The Sunday match was a friendly affair, closed off to the press to allow both teams a relaxed environment to analyze their team’s strengths and weaknesses.
2 goals to the good. 👌 pic.twitter.com/eVp43SR4si
— LAFC (@LAFC) January 27, 2019
The victory came from a mix of old and new. LAFC’s three goals were scored by newcomer Peter-Lee Vassell, young talent André Horta and one of the team’s goal-scoring leaders, Diego Rossi. Horta opened the day with a quick give-and-go with captain Carlos Vela, slotting in a goal from the top of the penalty box. An awry shot from Vela gave Rossi an easy second chance for the team’s second goal, and a penalty situation gave Vassell his first goal in the black and gold.
With these three goals, the depth of young talent on the LAFC roster was on full display. Vassell and Horta are both relatively new additions for the team — Horta a mid-season grab last year, Vassell an addition during the off-season — who have quickly woven themselves into the fabric of the attack. And although Rossi feels like a veteran, especially when his chemistry sparks with the seasoned Vela, he is only 20 years old with many of his best playing years in front of him.
The game also hammered home the necessity of consistency from Vela, who as the captain has quickly become the heartbeat of LAFC. Vela’s growth and performance over the inaugural season was a huge benefit for the club to reap after thoroughly investing in the Mexican national as the team’s first player and star. As the cornerstone of the franchise, Vela pays off in ways that are both visible and intangible — his presence in the box can lead to an assist or a score at any second, forcing defenses to sag around him and leave other outlets open.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley made it clear preseason is the time to make adjustments, not predictions. But he saw promise in his team’s dynamic throughout the match and preseason training.
“It’s just an opportunity to see if some of the early work is sinking in,” Bradley said. “We want to be able to see that we take things that we work on every day in training and make sure that everybody understands how to use those ideas against different opponents. We’re excited, and I think it gives some indications in the early stages of where we are.”