Gareth Bale is going through his own personal “pre-season” after his arrival from Real Madrid, says Los Angeles FC boss Steve Cherundolo, but the coach believes the Wales forward is on track for a maiden club start as they prepare to welcome Seattle Sounders in MLS.
The two West Coast outfits will go head-to-head to round out July, with the former looking to increase their hold on the Western Conference and the latter seeking fresh form after a nosedive in the wake of their Champions League triumph.
Star man Bale made nabbed his first LAFC goal off the bench against Sporting Kansas City so far, but having transitioned directly into stateside competition on the back of a European schedule, is still slowly being integrated into the squad.
Cherundolo says he is approaching a spot in the starting XI however, stating: “He’s getting better. It’s a pre-season (for him), so in pre-season, your body sometimes goes through bad days and good days, a little shock to the nervous system, some sore days, and we’re constantly improving him.
“We’re on track. I think he’ll be in (a) position to add minutes to what we saw last week. But at a healthy pace, not too much too soon, I think we can add (minutes). I’d prefer not to put a number on that, but I think we can add to what we had last game.”
Opposite number Brian Schmetzer however will not be rushing his own star man Raul Ruidiaz back into the fray, though he admits the designated player is doing well, adding: “Raul is looking very good. He is shooting, almost in full training.
“Is LAFC, is that an intriguing target, an intriguing timeline to get him? Yeah. But I’m not so sure the risk to reward is enough even though it’s national TV, all that, Supporters’ Shield leaders.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
LAFC – Gareth Bale
He might only have one goal so far in MLS, but the Welshman’s pedigree is impeccable, and arguably stands him a cut above the rest of the competition. If he gets on for any length of time, he’ll bolster LAFC’s prospects and cause serious consternation for the Sounders.
Seattle – Jordan Morris
The Washington outfit’s leading scorer with six this term, Morris could be key to unlocking their hosts, particularly if Ruidiaz plays no part. He also has notched three assists this term too, suggesting he could supply the goals if he does not finish them.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Sounders have managed just one point in five regular season visits to Banc of California Stadium, including a 3-0 loss last October, with the lone result a 1-1 draw in April 2021. The Sounders only win at LAFC came in the biggest meeting between the teams, in the 2019 Western Conference Final.
– Los Angeles FC has won seven of its last nine matches (D1 L1), including three in a row. This is LAFC’s fifth three-match winning streak since the start of last season, though they haven’t won more than three straight since a five-match run in July-August 2019.
– The Sounders have lost their last two away matches, both by 1-0 scorelines, at Nashville and Chicago. In fact, Seattle’s has suffered four 1-0 away defeats this season, twice as many as any other team this season (Chicago, Miami, Toronto – 2 each).
– Cristian Arango scored the first goal in Los Angeles FC’s 2-0 win at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday. It was his 19th different regular season game with a goal, more than any other player since he debuted in MLS last August.
– Nicolas Lodeiro scored the Sounders’ second goal from the penalty spot in their win over Colorado on Saturday. Lodeiro is a perfect 17-for-17 on penalties in regular season play (missed one in the playoffs), the only player in MLS history to take more than 12 regular season penalties without ever missing.