The 2020 MLS season is still a little over a month away, and in the meantime, the Los Angeles Football Club has made some key offseason moves.
LAFC’s offseason kicked off as it exercised the contracts of promising young players including defenders Triston Blackmon and Mohammed El-Munir. Forwards Adrian Perez and Josh Perez were also retained.
LAFC defenders Jordan Harvey and Dejan Jakovic were initially left as free agents, but both have re-signed for another year.
There was speculation that Harvey, who is 36 years old, would retire following last year’s exit against the Seattle Sounders in the Western Conference Final, but his new deal extends his career for an additional season.
Though there will be some familiar faces returning this season, some notable players have departed, including midfielder Lee Nguyen, who was taken by Inter Miami in the MLS Expansion Draft. Nguyen was a prominent member of the team the past two seasons, rotating in and out of the starting eleven with the likes of midfielder Latif Blessing.
Defender Steven Beitashour entered the offseason as a free agent and is not expected to return to the team. Like Nguyen, Beitashour has been with the club since its inception in 2018.
Despite some big losses in the midfield, the club has managed to replenish its roster, acquiring Francisco Ginella and Jose Cifuentas, two young midfielders from South American clubs.
“It is exciting for our club to sign a player of [Ginella’s] quality and potential,” LAFC general manager John Thorrington said in a team statement. “We are confident Francisco will prove to be a great fit for LAFC as we look ahead to our third season.”
Ginella is a member of Uruguay’s U-20 team and joins fellow Uruguayans — forwards Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez — on the roster.
Cifuentes, 20, is on Ecuador’s U-20 national team and is known for his flashy play.
Both the signings of Cifuentes and Ginella add to a growing trend of LAFC taking a chance on lesser-known South American talent.
Cifuentes and Ginella will play alongside fan-favorite Blessing, making the midfield game for the Black and Gold a point of interest as the team enters regular season play.
Despite the significant roster changes at midfield, the biggest change for LAFC has come at goalkeeper. LAFC acquired veteran keeper Kenneth Vermeer. He has international playing experience at Dutch powerhouse clubs Ajax and Feyenoord.
Vermeer, 34, adds experience to the position and fans are hoping that this will result in more consistent goalie play, something many supporters thought was lacking at times last season.
"Kenneth is an experienced goalkeeper with an impressive track record of competing at the highest levels throughout his career," said Thorrington in a statement. "We are confident that he will immediately fortify our goalkeeping core, and we look forward to welcoming him to the City of Los Angeles."
After LAFC signed Vermeer, fans across MLS designated the club as one of the leading favorites for the MLS Cup in the upcoming season.
Vermeer’s signing resulted in the departure of goalkeeper Tyler Miller, who was traded to Minnesota United.
The Black and Gold will be entering their third season with much higher expectations as they try to overcome their reputation of failed postseason runs.
LAFC will begin its season on March 1 as it squares off against highly anticipated expansion franchise Inter Miami at home. The game will take place at 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN.