Amy Woff thinks the team being built at the latest MLS franchise offers exciting off-season football.
Here we are in March; Manchester City fans are planning another victory party, Tottenham fans are sweating over Harry Kane and Arsenal fans have given up (for real this time). The season may still have some twists and turns in the final few weeks, but at this late stage many hopes and dreams are being pinned on Russia 2018. On the bright side, the MLS kicked off at the beginning of the month so there is still plenty of football on the cards. One team in particular, Los Angeles FC, has some big aspirations for its inaugural season in the league.
After Chivas USA folded in 2014 there was an opening for Los Angeles to establish an MLS expansion franchise. Black and gold were released as the official LA FC colours and they’ve, quite wisely, stuck to classic style kits, a simple badge and slick merchandise. Season tickets sold out easily and buyers received a fancy welcome pack embossed with a map of Los Angeles and filled with free car stickers and rousing phrases. The drive to get people in LA excited about football and their new team has sparked a sizzling energy across the city and fans are really buying into this project.
LA have geared up to play good football. Instead of purchasing players past their prime from Europe, the LA squad is built on youth and potential with a few more experienced players to balance the team. While former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela didn’t quite explode in the Premier League he did get some good years in La Liga and is still only 29-years-old. Vela leads LA’s attack and is joined by Diego Rossi and Joao Moutinho (not the one you’re thinking of.) Rossi is just 20 years old and has been heavily involved in the Uruguayan youth set-up.
He has one year of senior professional football under his belt in Uruguay and either sees the MLS as a springboard to the big European clubs, or sees it as a chance to spearhead the growth and quality of football in the US. Either way, it seems like a wise move. Portuguese youngster Joao Moutinho was the first pick in this year’s MLS draft. He played in the Sporting Lisbon academy until 2017 then moved to Ohio to play for the University of Akron for one season before joining the professional league. Like Vela and Rossi, Moutinho is slight with a good eye for passing and a real sense of comfort in possession. This is the kind of team that LA is building: skilled, young and international.
LA’s decision to scout younger talent has paid off in the opening weeks of the season. In the franchise’s first ever competitive match, LA beat reigning MLS champions Seattle Sounders 1-0 away from home. In their next game, also away, they came from behind to beat Real Salt Lake 5-1. Rossi already has three goals and an assist heading into a huge inaugural local derby against LA Galaxy at the end of March. Their home stadium will boast a prime spot in downtown LA when construction is complete and if they can keep their current form going, there can be no doubt the place will be buzzing for their first home fixture in April.
There’s no excuse not to get excited about LA FC. They are a team already playing with flair and energy and everyone looks good in black and gold. Perhaps they’ll be the perfect football distraction during the summer break when England inevitably get knocked out in the group stage.