LAFC set for busy offseason with several key players out of contract

LAFC’s front office are set for a busy winter ahead of the 2024 season following the club’s narrow defeat in MLS Cup.

Most clubs have a couple or a few players nearing the end of a contract that can either be replaced or extended, and then there’s LAFC. Instead of just one or two players out of contract at year’s end, the Black and Gold have several starts headed for the exit door unless things change in the coming weeks.

For starters, club legend Carlos Vela may have just played his final game for the Black and Gold against the Crew on December 9. The 34-year-old has shifted from a winger this season into more a central role for head coach Steve Cherundolo, totaling nine goals and 12 assists in league play.

It would be a disappointing end for Vela after his incredible run with the Western Conference side, as he’s amassed 93 goals and 54 assists in 188 appearances across all competitions. Vela notably set the MLS single-season goal scoring record in 2019 with 34 goals while also dishing out 15 assists.

Then there’s veteran center-back Giorgio Chiellini, who’s also out of contract at the end of December. The 39-year-old has played roughly one-and-a-half seasons for LAFC after joining from Serie A giants Juventus last summer, playing a key part in the team’s appearance in two straight MLS Cups. Following MLS Cup, he was unable to reveal his plans just yet while rumors continue to swirl about him potentially taking on a coaching role with the Old Lady.

Given how valuable he’s proven to be, it would be a surprise to see the club let shot-stopper Maxime Crepeau walk for free. He was key to the team’s run to 2022 MLS Cup and even sacrificed himself (and unfortunately, a fractured leg) getting sent off in the final to deny a sure-fire goal in extra time against Philadelphia Union.

The same can be said for the likes of Ilie Sanchez and Kellyn Acosta, who both played their parts in 2022 MLS Cup as the former slotted home the winning penalty while the latter scored the opening goal with a deflected free kick. Sanchez and Acosta have made over 160 combined appearances for LAFC, with both players joining before the 2022 season.

Giorgio ChielliniGiorgio Chiellini

Chiellini may retire / Shaun Clark/GettyImages

Full-back Diego Palacios is also set to hit free agency, as the 24-year-old has established himself as one of the best left-backs in MLS by making over 130 appearances for the Black and Gold since August 2019.

All of the players above have helped to continually raise the standard for LAFC at BMO Stadium by shattering records left-and-right and bringing home silverware during the team’s dominant era as an expansion side.

MLS Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga remains under contract with LAFC through the 2025 season. But even he was unable to rule out a return to Europe after the final despite being happy with his current team.

“He’s under contract. He’s the top goalscorer in the league, a huge part of how we play,” LAFC general manager and co-president John Thorrington said after the final whistle. “So our plan is absolutely he’s under contract for another few years and that he’ll be back. We never know what may happen, but it’s going to be a hugely, hugely expensive transfer fee if he’s not here next year.”

Above all, one thing’s for certain: this LAFC team will look a lot different come February when the 2024 MLS season rolls around. Thorrington and Cherundolo appear to have their work cut out for them as they aim to qualify and take home 2024 MLS Cup after falling short in 2023.

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