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LA Galaxy 2020 player postmortem: Julian Araujo

Far and away the best Homegrown of the season for LA.

MLS: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

2020 was a breakout year of sorts for Julian Araujo.

The teenage right back began the year with a call-up to the annual January U.S. Men’s National Team training camp, and when he wasn’t played in the friendly to wrap up the camp (at Dignity Health Sports Park, no less), it seemed to light a fire under him in his second pro season.

I think when ranking the seasons of Galaxy players, you could make a compelling case that Araujo was only behind Cristian Pavon for sure in terms of who was best in the campaign. Perhaps you could argue Sebastian Lletget was a bit better, but Araujo was either the second- or third-best player on the team overall on the season.

The problem was, even though Guillermo Barros Schelotto played him regularly, he played him out of position much of the time.

Araujo had been deployed as a midfield marker in games against LAFC in 2019, the youngster basically tasked with man-marking Carlos Vela, and he did pretty well at it. That, combined with no right-sided midfielder on the roster for much of the season after the Aleksandar Katai scandal, meant Schelotto decided to put Araujo at right mid and continue with Rolf Feltscher at right back for much of the season.

Here were Araujo’s stats in 2020:

Julian Araujo 2020 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 17 17 1,298 1 3 8 3 6 2

Let’s go over the good of all this for Araujo: I think playing in a different position could be useful for him down the line, as he showed he had some set piece abilities and probably could develop his attacking skills and possibly show in another league that he can play up and down the right side. Unlike many fullbacks, Araujo didn’t start as an attacker who got moved back, he was a center back who got moved out wide, so he may be just scratching the surface in terms of his attacking potential.

Also, he played out of position much of the season and still managed to be one of the best players on the team. Think about that for a moment. With the team largely in disarray, this Homegrown got played in a largely unfamiliar position and did pretty well. Then he played a bunch in his usual position and did well there, too.

And his leadership role during the season, particularly the shutdown, to help farm workers and his hometown of Lompoc, showed not only a concern for others, particularly some of the most vulnerable people in our society, but also a natural leadership. I think his desire to help raise his community is a wonderful signal that he’s got a big heart and genuinely hasn’t forgotten his roots.

Now, the bad for Araujo’s season: The biggest flag here is his discipline. Two red cards in a shortened season is definitely a concern, as he was tied for first with the most reds in the league. Beyond that, he also had six yellow cards on the season and had to serve a yellow card suspension, and averaging a yellow card about every three games is a high clip. Yes, some players have to take one for the team and pick up yellow cards, and no one expects defenders to go without yellow cards at all, but over the course of the season the number of cards he racked up was a concern. On the bright side, he didn’t start any brawls or do anything especially dirty, he was just a bit wild. That’s something that can be worked on.

I think you could ask why Araujo didn’t beat out Rolf Feltscher to be the starting right back, with Feltscher’s shortcomings glaring, but to me that came down more to Schelotto’s overreliance on the veteran rather than anything to do with Araujo. Now that Feltscher is gone and Araujo is the presumed starting right back, we can see if he can lock down the position, as expected.

Beyond that, the big question is what is Araujo’s ceiling. Just a couple weeks ago, he was linked to a move to Juventus, which once would have been totally fanciful but with Weston McKennie playing well there, maybe that will open the door for more Americans. I’m not sure he’s destined for a move to Juve in the coming weeks, but I think he can certainly move to Europe if he continues to develop this year. I think the Galaxy being generally really bad the last two years has brought Araujo’s profile much lower in MLS than it should be. To me, he’s one of the top five European prospects in MLS right now, and I think LA should be selling him for seven figures before long.

So we’ll see if he lasts the full 2021 season with the Galaxy. Even if he does, outgoing transfers in MLS often take a lot longer than anticipated, but even with the hype surrounding Efrain Alvarez, Araujo is far more polished and ready to play abroad now. Is he truly ready? Time will tell. But LA should have their starting right back until he moves on to a bigger stage, and if that happens, the sky could be the limit for the Galaxy homegrown.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.