LAFC must make contract decisions starting Monday

John Thorrington hadn’t even rinsed the champagne out of his hair after last Saturday’s MLS Cup victory celebration when the LAFC general manager was forced to turn his attention to next season.

“We’re going to let this year’s achievements sink in, but that doesn’t make us any less ambitious,” said Thorrington, who built LAFC’s title-winning team. “If anything, the feeling of winning motivates us to do our best to repeat it.”

It won’t be easy in a league where no team has won back-to-back titles in more than a decade. But the first step towards that goal begins on Monday, when Thorrington must decide which players will receive contract offers for next season and which players will have their contract options turned down.

“I want to keep this whole team together,” he said. “But with our restrictions and regulations, it’s impossible to keep and add the entire group. So we have to determine what we need and sometimes surgery is required. Hopefully that’s marginal and not too intrusive. But time will tell.”

MLS has a salary cap and a number of other roster rules designed to bring about parity. For business leaders like Thorrington, the rules inspire frustration and fear.

At least a dozen LAFC players saw their contracts expire after the MLS Cup finals, although many of them have club options. Captain Carlos Vela, midfielder Ilie Sánchez and defender Giorgio Chiellini are all reportedly signed for next season, while winger Gareth Bale is signed until spring. These four deals will cost LAFC more than $5 million. The team owes another $3.4 million in base salary to designated players Denis Bouanga and Cristian Tello.

National team midfielder Kellyn Acosta ($1.1 million) and goaltender Maxime Crepeau ($275,000) are among those with contract options Thorrington said he wanted to exercise.

“Right now that’s the plan,” Thorrington said of Acosta. “Things can change but he’s signed for next season.”

Thorrington said Crepeau, who left the field with a cart after breaking his leg late in the MLS Cup final, has had successful surgery but is expected to be out for at least the first few months of the 2023 season.

Carlos Vela wins the MLS Cup, his first league title of his career.

Carlos Vela receives the MLS Cup after LAFC’s win over Philadelphia on November 5th.

(Roberto Cortés / Special for LA Times in Español)

Defender Ryan Hollingshead, who has had a career season, is free to join free agency on Wednesday and Sebastian Mendez, Franco Escobar and Sebastien Ibeagha are also reportedly out of contract. Keeping the team together with a payroll near the $19 million that LAFC spent last season will be a challenge for Thorrington.

“It’s impossible to keep all of them, and sometimes even difficult to keep the core,” Thorrington said. “What I would say is our advantage our players love to play here. And I think they know we’re treating them the best we can.

“But once we’ve wrapped up the celebrations and we have those conversations, they’re difficult at times.”

Among the possible departures are midfielders José Cifuentes and Latif Blessing. Cifuentes, who is traveling to the World Cup with Ecuador, is still under contract but both LAFC and Cifuentes, 23, have started evaluating transfer offers.

“There is significant interest in Cifu from Europe,” said Thorrington. “And as we have consistently done in the past, we are working closely with the agent and player and interested clubs to see if there is the right solution for LAFC and for Cifu.”

LAFC has a contract option for Blessing, 25, a member of the original squad in 2018, but he played a career-low 1,332 minutes this season and said he misses friends and family in Ghana.

In addition to the deadline for announcing contract decisions on Monday and the start of free agency on Wednesday, the re-entry draft for players who are uncontracted but not eligible for free agency begins on Thursday. LAFC could be active in many of these as more depth is required given the number of games it could play next year.

In addition to the 34-game MLS regular season, which opens at the Rose Bowl on February 25 against Galaxy, LAFC will play in the CONCACAF Champions League, US Open Cup and mid-summer month-long Leagues Cup starting in March. It could require the team to play up to 57 games in less than 10 months if they return to the MLS Cup finals.

But while Thorrington’s job description requires him to look ahead, he said he’s not quite ready to let go of last week’s MLS Cup win.

“The first MLS Cup, I think it felt a bit like we knocked a monkey off the back,” he said. “We didn’t shy away from our desire to win the MLS Cup so it was just amazing, incredible to thank our fans and just the players and staff for everything they put into it, not just this year but for five years, that to deliver moment.”

Now the challenge is to do it again. LAFC must make contract decisions starting Monday

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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