May 22, 2022

LAFC meeting new coach Steve Cherundolo’s expectations

View Original Notice ? LAFC meeting new coach Steve Cherundolo’s expectations

Three days into his first training camp as head coach of the Los Angeles Football Club, Steve Cherundolo has gotten what he expected so far.

For instance, in versatile defender Franco Escobar, who won the MLS Cup with Atlanta United in 2018, Cherundolo sees the “proven winner” he was supposed to be, who, at the age of 26, will be an example for younger players.

“It’s always nice to have those expectations met,” the coach said Thursday.

Escobar has not held an in-depth conversation with his new coach since camp started Tuesday. Yet the fiery 26-year-old Argentinian, likely a regular starter, said Cherundolo’s message – a mixture of LAFC’s attack-minded DNA and soccer philosophy honed during 22 years in Germany – “is very clear so now we’re working to adapting to that.”

As the club makes good on promises to bolster its roster with accomplished players in their prime along with a highly regarded goalkeeper following the trade for Maxime Crepeau from Vancouver on Thursday, expectations for the Black & Gold have only increased since Cherundolo’s hiring to start the year.

The eye-popping potential of adding a third designated player remains a possibility before opening day, and as the pieces come together between training camp through the end of the year, Cherundolo believes finding and maintaining a well-balanced way to play that connects the defense to the attack and vice versa will be critical to their success.

Key to that mission are the club’s recent trophy-winning additions at midfield, Ilie Sanchez and Kellyn Acosta, “two very, very good people with strong characteristics and personalities on the field,” Cherundolo said.

LAFC must wait until the next round of the U.S. men’s World Cup qualifying effort ends in early February before the 26-year-old Acosta can partner with Sanchez, 31, and the club’s other midfield options.

“Both are winners. Both are team players. Both are very good communicators,” Cherundolo said during the club’s first media call of the 2022 season. “All attributes and assets we were looking for and will use on the field to fill a few holes we were looking to plug.”

The day he was introduced as head coach, Cherundolo pointed out that he wanted players to laugh and enjoy themselves every day. On that front, expectations have not fallen short of the mark either.

“When you come into practice and you know you will always be focusing on having the ball, trying to play around the ball and working with exercises that value creating chances with the ball that gives you joy,” Sanchez said. “I think we are all here because at some point we started our childhood playing with the ball and I think Steve wants us at least in these first days and weeks to feel that we are here, of course, to win games.

“But the closest way to win is if we enjoy what we do and we are rewarded with the ball not just in training sessions but in games.”

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