LAFC’s depth has been neutralized during busy month

Steve Cherundolo knows squirrels.

During his playing days in Germany, the Los Angeles Football Club head coach lived in a house in Hannover with a walnut tree in the backyard.

“I would watch the squirrels go every day back and forth over the terrace to the tree then hide (nuts) all over the yard and basically lose them,” Cherundolo said. “We would find them in every corner of our garden. So, yeah, I am quite aware of their activity.”

Dropping the last two Major League Soccer matches with a pair to go before the start of a three-week FIFA international window on May 30 got Cherundolo thinking about the woodland creatures prior to LAFC’s departure for a Saturday afternoon game in Ohio against the Columbus Crew

“You try to be a squirrel and add as many nuts as possible right now,” Cherundolo said. “That is what we are doing to prepare for the winter. In our case, it’s the summer and the MLS and that’s what we’re trying to do. It doesn’t matter against who.”

After some productive early foraging, strain on roster depth and the club’s compacted schedule has seen LAFC sock away just four out of 12 possible points in May so far.

The busiest month of the year – six MLS matches, a U.S. Open Cup victory over Portland and another knockout match to come on the 25th against the Galaxy – has neutralized depth as a weapon for Cherundolo’s team.

“People are going down injured,” said forward Danny Musovski, who earned his first MLS start in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at home to Austin FC. “It’s just tough for the group. Everybody needs to step up. That’s why we have 30 guys on the roster, essentially, if unfortunate things happen like injuries.”

Midfielder Latif Blessing is the latest casualty with right knee and ankle issues. The Ghanian will be out this weekend, as is defender Ryan Hollingshead, who was forced off the field during LAFC’s lackluster 2-0 loss in Colorado.

However center defender Jesus Murillo returned on Wednesday, as did winger Brian Rodriguez, who looked strong after a month-long injury.

For healthy players like Musovski, a goal-hungry attacker from Las Vegas, the busy stretch has produced opportunities but not enough moments that capitalized on them.

“We’re pressing well and winning balls in good spots but sometimes it’s just not coming off and then it feels like on the other end they get one half-chance and capitalize on one of our mistakes and get a goal,” he said. “It’s kind of how soccer is sometimes but hopefully the tide will swing and we’ll get a couple bounces our way and get up in the game.”

Like a squirrel finding a nut, some might say.

LAFC (7-3-2, 23 points) has its next chance against the Crew (3-4-4, 13 points).

The two previous times the franchises met, LAFC walked away with shutout wins, the last coming in 2019 at Historic Crew Stadium.

The Crew moved from the first soccer-specific stadium in MLS to Field last July.

With just one victory in their last eight matches, the 2008 and 2020 MLS champions are off to the fourth-worst start in franchise history.

“If this is our only patch of games where we are a bit thin for the entire season then I think that’s fine,” Cherundolo said. “There’s always these moments in every season and we’re getting through it and there’s three more games and we’ll be fine for this stretch and will push hard until the break.”


When: Saturday, 12:30 p.m.

Where: Field, Columbus, Ohio

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