It would be hard to classify Los Angeles FC's first season in Major League Soccer as anything other than a success.
The expansion side rolled up 16 wins in their first campaign on the strength of a high-flying attack that produced the second highest goal total in the league behind only MLS Cup champion Atlanta United. The attacking trident of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Adama Diomande all reached double figures in goals and as late as the final week of the regular season the club looked prime to claim the top spot in the Western Conference.
A loss to Sporting Kansas City in the regular season finale saw the club finish the year out of the top two in the conference, missing out on a first-round playoff bye. It proved a bad beat for Bob Bradley's side, which fell 3-2 at home to Real Salt Lake in the knockout round to end what was otherwise a stunning debut campaign.
There are things that will need to be fixed for the club in 2019, most notably a defense that surrendered 52 goals in 34 regular season matches and 55 in 35 if you include the playoff loss, but with Bradley at the helm and a couple of fresh faces at the back, it's hard to bet against LAFC improving on their showing at the back last season.
How did Los Angeles FC perform in 2018?
2018 finish: Third in the Western Conference (16-9-9), lost in the Western Conference knockout round to Real Salt Lake.
Hopes were high heading into the final week of the regular season, but a draining loss to Sporting Kansas City in a battle for the conference top spot left LAFC facing a knockout round clash with RSL just days later. The expansion side even looked good in that match, taking a 2-1 lead in the second half before eventually falling in heartbreaking fashion, as a Walker Zimmerman own goal proved to be LAFC's undoing.
Los Angeles FC's key offseason losses
The departure of a pair of veterans in Benny Feilhaber and Marco Urena will be counted as the LAFC's two biggest losses this offseason.
Feilhaber was a key cog in the middle of the park for Bradley's side. The former U.S. national team midfielder played in 34 matches, racking up the most minutes of any outfield player on the team. He added six assists and three goals along the way but moved to the Colorado Rapids as a free agent. Urena was slowed by an injury in the middle of the season but still notched one goal and five assists in 18 games with the club. The Costa Rican forward has now moved on to join Alajuelense in his home country.
The rest of LAFC's core stayed largely intact from the end of the 2018 season, though fullback Joao Moutinho was traded to Orlando City after being the first overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft and Aaron Kovar, just 25, announced his retirement.
Los Angeles FC's key offseason additions
The arrival of center back Eddie Segura from Colombian side Atletico Huila, on loan with LAFC holding an option to purchase, and left back Mohamed El-Munir, who was brought in from Orlando in the Moutinho trade, should help solidify the back line for Bradley's squad.
El Salvador international forward Rodolfo "Fito" Zelaya was added on a two-year deal and should add even more punch to an already potent attacking unit.
The club also landed Mexican goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega from Real Sociedad to add depth to the goalkeeping pool and possibly to push incumbent shot stopper Tyler Miller, who played all but one league match for LAFC in 2018.
Full Los Angeles FC roster entering 2019 season
Goalkeepers: Tyler Miller, Pablo Sisniega
Defenders: Steven Beitashour, Tristan Blackmon, Mohamed El-Munir, Jordan Harvey, Dejan Jakovic, Eddie Segura, Danilo Silva, Walker Zimmerman
Midfielders: Eduard Atuesta, Andre Horta, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Lee Nguyen
Forwards: Latif Blessing, Shaft Brewer Jr., Adama Diomande, Josh Pérez, Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela, Rodolfo Zelaya
Los Angeles FC projected starting lineup
Feilhaber moving on leaves a massive piece to replace in the middle of the park, but LAFC's starting XI should look very similar to last season, with Vela, Rossi and Diomande leading the line in a front three. Beitashour and Zimmerman look likely to retain their starting spots, while incumbents Jakovic and Harvey could be pushed for their places by newcomers Segura and El-Munir.
The biggest unknowns are in the midfield, but Bradley has options, with the signing of Zelaya potentially allowing Vela or Rossi to drop deeper, though the trio of Atuesta, Kaye and Nguyen looks the most likely to get the first crack in the middle.
Los Angeles FC's national TV coverage
- LAFC vs. Sporting Kansas City - Sunday, March 3, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
- LAFC vs. Portland Timbers - Sunday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1
- New York City FC vs. LAFC - Sunday, March 17, at 3 p.m. ET on FS1
- San Jose Earthquakes vs. LAFC - Sunday, March 30, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision
- D.C. United vs LAFC - Saturday, April 6, 2:30 p.m. ET on Fox
- LAFC vs Seattle Sounders - Sunday, April 21, 7 p.m. ET on FS1
- Seattle Sounders vs LAFC - Sunday, April 28, 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
- LAFC vs FC Dallas - Thursday, May 16, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Portland Timbers vs LAFC - Saturday, June 1, 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Colorado Rapids vs LAFC - Friday, June 28, 10 p.m ET on UniMas
- Houston Dynamo vs LAFC - Friday, July 12, 9 p.m. ET on UniMas
- LA Galaxy vs LAFC - Friday, July 19, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN
- LAFC vs Atlanta United - Saturday, July 27, 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
- LAFC vs New York Red Bulls - Sunday, August 11, 10 p.m. ET on FS1
- LAFC vs San Jose Earthquakes - Wednesday, August 21, 10:30 p.m. ET on UniMas
- LAFC vs LA Galaxy - Sunday, August 25, 10 p.m. ET on FS1