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LA Galaxy 2020 player postmortem: Emil Cuello

Bench option played in a pinch.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Real Salt Lake Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Emil Cuello returned to the LA Galaxy for a second season in 2020, the midfielder coming back after getting a bit of playing time in MLS in his rookie season.

On paper, a Argentine-American midfielder sounded ideal for a Guillermo Barros Schelotto team in MLS, and while Cuello got spurts of game action under the manager, his minutes ended up being pretty limited and in the end, it was hard to really get a sense of his game at the MLS level.

Here are Cuello’s stats for 2020:

Emil Cuello 2020 LA Galaxy Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 11 2 232 0 0 2 2 1 0

Cuello played two extra games and about 50 minutes more game action in 2020 compared to the season before, but on the scale of player progress, it was more or less even year to year. His two starts this year were losses, although obviously I don’t think Cuello was the reason they lost those matches.

But while being a bench midfielder is a role that’s difficult to fill in many respects — you know what an attacker’s aiming to do as a sub, or a defender, but a midfielder’s role is much more murky in a relief role — it’s hard to know what Cuello brought on the field. He played in all manner of roles in midfield, but again, depending on the game state, coming on for four, or seven or 24 minutes late in a game is a tough spot for a player to really get into a game. And on the basic stat sheet, not a ton showed up.

Given Schelotto was not capable of really molding a successful team in MLS, it’s possible that Cuello was collateral damage, the player not getting a showcase and a coherent tactical plan that was successful to implement.

At the same time, I wonder if he could find a good spot in the USL Championship moving forward and really get a run to show what he can do at that level. I don’t want to sell Cuello’s level short, and maybe a new spot in MLS would do him good, but given his inability to break through the Galaxy’s midfield ranks to get regular playing time, going to the second tier could be a better spot for him for the time being.

And it looks like he’ll be moving on, since the Galaxy didn’t pick up Cuello’s contract option for 2021. I can’t say I’m surprised, really.

So we’ll see what happens, and where Cuello heads next. He’s only 23 and I’m imagining he wants to show what he can do moving forward, to really give a sense of what he can offer at the pro level. I still think he’s a blank slate, but I’m not ready to write him off altogether.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.