After moving on from Bob Bradley when his contract expired in 2021, Los Angeles FC are set to hire former United States men’s national team player Steve Cherundolo for their head coaching gig. Cherundolo has been promoted from his former position as manager of the Las Vegas Lights. The Lights finished last season with a 6-23-3 record in USL Championship league play. While there was player movement between the Lights and LAFC, that’s quite an underwhelming record for a manager moving to MLS.
In the past, Cherundolo has also held assistant and youth roles with Hannover, Stuttgart, and the Germany U15’s but will be making the jump to MLS with only one season USL Championship head coaching experience under his belt. For a coach with a heavy hand in player development, not many players logged significant minutes for the Lights and LAFC and the standout homegrown on the first team roster, Tomas Romero, was acquired via a trade with the Philadelphia Union.
It isn’t quite fair to judge Cherundolo on wins and losses as he was given mostly U23 players to compete in a competitive league and in fact, this situation is why MLS Next Pro was created to move some of these development sides out of the USL Championship, although ironically Vegas won’t be one of the teams making the jump.
Bryce Duke, Christian Torres, Mamadou Fall, and Romero were the only players to log over 100 minutes for both Vegas and LAFC last season so unless LAFC is going into a full youth movement, there won’t be much familiarity between Cherundolo and the players heading into a critical season. As Carlos Vela could be out of contract in June and the team has already lost players in Eduard Atuesta and Diego Rossi a painful rebuild could be incoming.
Because of the rebuild, a number of names that they were linked to would have made sense. Antonio Mohamed, Kenny Arena and Jason Kries were all linked with more top flight experience to their names (Juan Carolos Osorio, whose decorated career has included stops with Mexico and Paraguay since he last coached in MLS with the New York Red Bulls is perhaps the one name linked with the job which wouldn’t have fit with a rebuild). While that isn’t a prerequisite to Cherundolo doing well in the role, the experience is helpful taking over a role where the expectations are to compete for MLS Cup each year.
Hopefully, playing experience will translate in the role as LAFC won’t want a repeat of last year or for Cherundolo to bring the form from the Lights to the team.