Despite the anodyne tone of statements issued by a football club it’s possible to deduce some degree of sentiment from those regarding departures.
While a long, flowing, prose can indicate a fondness, a statement aiming for brevity can hint at clandestine intentions. When Andre Horta completed his move from LAFC to Braga this week the club opted to advertise their next fixture in a bid to pad it out.
“We would like to thank André for his contribution to the Club,” said EVP of Soccer Operations & General Manager John Thorrington of Andre Horta. “This deal makes good sense for both LAFC and André, and we wish him the best in the next phase of his career at Braga.”
In truth, it would be difficult to write more about Horta’s time in MLS as a loud entrance preceded a quiet exit. The Portuguese arrived in Los Angeles from Benfica after a strong season with fellow Portuguese outfit Braga. Last season saw Horta play 319 minutes in MLS. In 2019, that dropped to just 184 minutes across four games, two of which were starts. He was seen as the club’s heartbeat in midfield, a man to orchestrate proceedings, and his arrival was the byproduct of many months work.
“He’s not a player you can assess with statistics,” coach Bob Bradley said in March last year. “The best midfield players in the league, the best midfield players in the world, have to be appreciated for the little things that they do to make their team better.”
Although his exposure to the first team was brief it became apparent that Horta seemed out of place alongside his teammates and it disrupted what has been a finely tuned machine this season.
He failed to record a goal or assist, and a documentary about he club entitled “We are LAFC” gave a window into the awkward relationship Horta appeared to share with Bradley. After a defeat against the Chicago Fire last season Bradley approached Horta on the field and had a frank exchange with the midfielder.
“I’m concerned because I just feel like every day it’s something.” Bradley said. “We just want to help you man. I just feel like we’re trying so hard and you’re not all in with us. I don’t mean to be hard just on you but I feel like sill something is missing.”
It left Horta somewhat confused, with Bradley’s dressing room debrief of the team cast alongside an image of Horta staring off into space. The scene stood out as a crossroads moment, and unfortunately for LAFC things never kicked on for the player. Horta completed a return to Braga this week for an initial $2.75million (plus 50% of any future sale) and did not seem devastated to the leaving LA.
His first Instagram post after confirmation of the deal denoted a photo of him alongside brother Ricardo during their first stint together at alongside the caption ‘Let’s go there again’.
Often the departure of a chronically underperforming Designated Player would be felt by most MLS team, but it is a testament to just how strong LAFC have looked this season that there will be no void to fill.
At present, LAFC sit atop the Western Conference by 9 points with Carlos Vela leading the league in goals and assists. The club’s other DP, Diego Rossi, has a more than respectable 8 goals and 3 assists, while the likes of Eduard Atuesta and Mark-Anthony Kaye continue to grow into the side.
It has left fans with just one question in the wake of Horta’s departure; how do you spend that remaining DP spot? They currently lead the league in goals scored while only Atlanta United have a better defensive record in 2019.
Despite thriving in attack there is a case to be made for a forward, with current strikers Adama Diomande and Christian Ramirez both stuck on three league goals.
While fans speculate on potential targets including Javier Hernandez, Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli, there is also an argument to be made that continuity is the best step.
Securing Eddie Segura, a defender on loan from Colombian side Atlético Huila, could be an important next step. Add in possible permutations involving TAM and GAM and LAFC’s roster decisions could take up hours of discussion.
While those potential outcomes are discussed the players remain focused. After 16 games the team has already snatched the records for most goals scored, most wins (post shoot-out era) and most points.
That will be the icing on the cake if the team can also collect their first trophies. If they do that then expect the team’s website to commit to a much longer and superlative filled statement that requires no interpretation.