Match Program: FC Cincinnati at Los Angeles FC

As a change-up from the usual fast facts format of our match programs, we reached out to friend of Orange & Blue Press, Alicia Rodriguez, …

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FC Cincinnati heads to the West Coast on Saturday for a matchup with last year’s expansion darling, LAFC, at Banc of California Stadium. As a change-up to the usual fast facts format for this match program, we reached out to friend of Orange & Blue Press, Alicia Rodriguez, who is the managing editor of Angels on Parade, SB Nation’s Los Angeles FC blog.

We asked for Alicia’s insights on four key questions heading into Saturday’s contest.

What was the biggest glaring hole for LAFC in 2018? How did Bradley fix it in the offseason?

The biggest issue for LAFC in their debut season was coughing up leads and having late defensive breakdowns in games. Somewhat remarkably, the team opted not to make a bunch of changes, instead signing one new starter, center back Eddie Segura, and letting the rest of the group that returned get another shot at it. So far, the extra time (and Segura’s arrival) has worked, as they have allowed five goals in six games and have back-to-back clean sheets. Does this mean the defensive issues of 2018 are totally behind them? That remains to be seen. But players have said that the continuity has helped a lot, and so far, the proof is in the pudding.

LAFC is the hottest team in MLS. Can you see any chinks in the armor that FC Cincinnati can exploit?

LAFC have been down a goal in a few games, but they haven’t had to contend with a multigoal deficit so far. Any team that gets increasingly desperate is bound to get sloppy, and who knows how they would respond. I’d also not wish to see any players ejected, but how would they deal with a red card? That hasn’t happened yet this year, so there are game states that the team hasn’t faced so far, and if it’s one that’s favorable to the opponent, at some point it’s bound to slow them down.

So far LAFC’s opponents have received four red cards over the first six games. Is that just good fortune or is LAFC doing something to get these players in trouble?

Truthfully, I wouldn’t consider three of the red cards to be controversial at all. The fourth? Diego Chara picked up a second yellow card for flicking Diego Rossi’s ear — a violation of the letter of the law if maybe not necessarily the spirit. I think there are two things in common with the red cards so far: LAFC’s attack has been so clinical that teams get desperate to stop another push upfield however they can, and that means clotheslines (RSL’s Justin Portillo), rough midfield fouls to stop play (SKC’s Roger Espinoza), potential leg-breaking tackles (D.C. United’s Wayne Rooney) and yes, even flicks of the ear. The other thing in common is Rossi — he’s drawn three of the four red cards, and he’s a player who both has been fined for embellishment this year and seems to be getting less sympathy from the referees when he goes to ground, but also draws more than his share of legitimate fouls and cards, too.

LAFC tried to trade-up in the SuperDraft and get southern California native Frankie Amaya. Is there any buzz in LA about Frankie returning and possibly playing, given FC Cincinnati’s current injury troubles?

Aside from his family and friends? I’d say not really. Yes, LAFC made offers to trade up for Amaya, but when FC Cincinnati didn’t budge at the draft, they drafted two midfielders who they ended up signing, in Peter-Lee Vassell and Javi Perez. Vassell came to the team a full Jamaican international and has been a regular sub, while Perez has already made his MLS debut while splitting his time on loan in the USL Championship. Time will tell which players end up with the better trajectories, but early returns seem to indicate LAFC ended up drafting pretty well.

A big thanks to Alicia for her time and insights. Go check out all of her work at and Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for more coverage of FC Cincinnati at LAFC on Saturday.

MLS Expansion Draft – LAFC Lessons

We found some time with Alicia Rodriguez, contributing editor for and Angels on Parade for a deeper dive on LAFC’s successful expansion draft.

Orange & Blue Press took a step outside of the local market to gather some insights on FC Cincinnati’s upcoming expansion draft. At this time last year, LAFC was in FCC’s position, preparing for the expansion draft and trying to assemble a roster fit to compete for a playoff spot. The Western Conference upstart was successful to that end in 2018. Bob Bradley’s squad finished third in the West and earned a playoff berth while playing some fantastic soccer.

We found some time on the calendar of Alicia Rodriguez, contributing editor for and managing editor of SB Nation’s Angels on Parade, a website covering Los Angeles FC. We asked Alicia to dive deeper into LAFC’s successful expansion draft and help our readers understand what FC Cincinnati can learn from their success.

If FC Cincinnati could learn one lesson from LAFC’s expansion draft, what would it be?

“I think the big lesson is to make sure you get contributors from the expansion draft. Your actual selections don’t necessarily have to be starters or regular contributors, but if you’re going to flip selections, make sure you have deals in place or nearly so. With just five picks, you don’t have the luxury to pick up “maybes” as some MLS teams did in the past. To get the most out of the Expansion Draft, hone in on positions of need and get players you’re sure will be playing a role in your expansion season.”

How important do you think the expansion draft was to LAFC’s overall roster build for 2018?

“LAFC got two full-time starters (Tyler Miller and Laurent Ciman) and two part-time starters (Marco Ureña and Latif Blessing) from the Expansion Draft. All four offered considerable contributions to the squad in 2018. In taking two of their Expansion Draft picks, Jukka Raitala and Raheem Edwards, and trading them to Montreal for Ciman, they got a top central defender and the first captain of the team, also a guy they ended up getting money for when he was sold to Ligue 1 with just six months left on his contract, a savvy piece of business. Tyler Miller was selected to be in contention for the starting goalkeeper spot, and he ended up starting all but one game all year, his first as a starter. Ureña’s star waned after the World Cup, but in the opening weeks of the season, he did a fantastic job setting the tempo up top and setting up his teammates, while Blessing was a cult hero and equally adept at starting and being an impact substitute. All things considered, it is one of the most successful Expansion Drafts ever, even though the last two have been smaller than previous editions.

And while the Expansion Draft is at most five players, MLS teams need to maximize every way of obtaining players they can. Expansion teams struggle to find MLS experience, and this is maybe the easiest way to acquire that. So in that way, I think it’s still a critical way to acquire players.”

Do you think it was helpful for LAFC to be an expansion team starting from scratch versus an existing USL team moving up to MLS?

I don’t know, I think it’s hard to say. Prior to 2017, teams starting from scratch usually struggled really, really badly and teams coming from the lower divisions tended to weather the adjustment better. But I think Atlanta United and LAFC might have broken that mold. I think the existent teams moving up may be occasionally too sentimental or blinded by the players on the roster who they want to promote, and for every Christian Ramirez, there’s a slew of guys who make the jump up to MLS who never really get up to speed. In the past, those guys who might be on the bubble of being MLS level could offer valuable experience for a promoted team, but I think Atlanta and LAFC made the most of a blank slate to put together the entire team at once. They showed it can be done, and now it’s up to teams like Cincinnati to prove they can be prudent with the players they promote to the MLS team.”

What do you think the likelihood is that FC Cincinnati will come knocking on LAFC’s door in the expansion draft?

I think the chance Cincinnati selects a player, barring a handshake deal that includes a separate trade, is pretty good. Since there are five fewer teams eligible for the Expansion Draft this year, the odds for everyone else are better that a player will be taken, and generally, the better teams will attract more interest. LAFC wasn’t the very best, but I definitely think there will be available players that Cincinnati will want from the 2018 roster.”

We’d like to thank Alicia for her time and insights, and encourage you to check her work out on and The 2018 MLS expansion draft will be held in New York City on Tuesday, December 11th at 2 PM Eastern. FC Cincinnati will select up to five players from the eligible pool. They can only claim a single player from any one club and will have three minutes for each selection, with no timeouts or trades during the draft.

Also be sure to check out Steve Buckeridge’s analysis of the positions and players that FC Cincinnati could target on December 11th.

Stay tuned to Orange & Blue Press for continued coverage of the MLS Expansion Draft and FC Cincinnati’s offseason roster build.