LOS ANGELES — Looking ahead to Friday’s derby match with the LA Galaxy in Carson (10 pm ET | ESPN; TSN2), LAFC are well aware of the threat posed by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but this time the visitors will have a far younger offensive threat to deal with as well.
It’s a player LAFC defender Steven Beitashour heard all about from the Swede himself.
“Zlatan, in one of his first games, gave [Efrain Alvarez] really high praise about being one of the best young players he’s seen in the system,” said Beitashour. “So obviously he’s a good player, he likes to get in these good spots.”
LAFC head coach Bob Bradley has also seen the way Alvarez has put on fireworks in his short time with the Galaxy’s senior squad after rising through the Chivas USA and Galaxy academy ranks.
The LAFC boss noted one particular characteristic of the 17-year-old Homegrown winger that impressed him most.
“He’s got an excellent left foot, obviously. His ability to play different passes, play long balls, shoot, he’s got a really talented left foot. I continue to watch and enjoy to see how he will develop.”
When asked about the younger left-footed talent, LAFC captain Carlos Vela admitted he hasn’t seen much of the player yet but felt if he was already playing for the Galaxy at his tender age then that boded well for his future.
“I hope the best for all the players in this league and the world,” said the LAFC captain about Alvarez. “Everybody fight for everything for himself, try to be the best player, and I hope he is doing a good job.”
East L.A. native Alvarez — whose elder brother Carlos (currently with the USL Championship side Loudoun United) is a former No. 2 overall MLS SuperDraft pick and was the first-ever player on LAFC’s books but was cut before their first preseason camp — is eligible to play for both the United States and Mexico’s men’s national sides.
For now, he continues to impress with the Galaxy in MLS, posting two game-changing assists in just 355 minutes of action this season, with LAFC the next opponent tasked with keeping his burgeoning talents at bay.
“I don’t think he’s top end fast, but when you’re shifty like that you can throw someone off and you get that little half yard that you need,” said Beitashour when speaking about how to stop a technically skilled player like Alvarez.
“It’s important that the footwork and making sure that we defend as a team. You almost create a web around these kind of players, you don’t just go and lunge in because he’s skilled enough to get by you if you do that. It’ll be important that we work together and communicate, especially with their team, they love crossing the ball, so if we can prevent that, prevent it from the source, I think it will be alright.”