Bob Bradley out as LAFC manager after four seasons

Bob Bradley is out as Los Angeles Football Club's manager after being in charge of the Major League Soccer side's first four seasons, it was announced on Thursday.

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"Bob has been fantastic as the first and only head coach for this Club," John Thorrington, LAFC co-president and general manager, said in a statement. "He provided strong leadership and has been a great ambassador for LAFC. Bob helped us develop a winning culture and established a legacy that will always be a part of LAFC's history."

Bradley was hired as the club's first head coach in July 2017. His time included a record-breaking run to the Supporters' Shield in 2019 and an appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League final in 2020.

"It's been incredible to have played a part in the early history of LAFC," Bradley said. "From the beginning there was a real commitment to connect to the city and the fans, and we shared some amazing experiences."

The confirmation of his departure comes after weeks of speculation that Bradley, the former United States men's national team coach, could leave for Toronto FC, where his son, midfielder Michael Bradley, has played since 2014. Toronto FC fired first-year coach Chris Armas in July, and Javier Perez saw out the rest of the season as interim coach.

The departure comes after an injury-ravaged 2021 season in which LAFC failed to reach the playoffs for the first time, finishing in ninth place.

Discussions with Bradley about his future at the club started shortly after the season ended, Thorrington told ESPN.

"I think there was a process, a two-way conversation that took place, as to what made sense for both sides that led us to today," Thorrington said. "I think it took that amount of time to get us here. The conversations were amicable, the conversations were very respectful and I think, in the end, after we both considered what made most sense, we landed with this mutual agreement."

Thorrington declined to comment on how the possibility of Bradley landing the Toronto job factored into the end result.

"We want to certainly take this moment to thank Bob for all he did, and wish him well," Thorrington said. "Now we are ready to move into this next phase and part of that will be a very diligent and rigorous process as we filter through a list of candidates. ... I wouldn't I don't want to compromise a good decision making and process for punctuality here."

With the MLS season starting in February, pushed up as a result of the 2022 World Cup in November, LAFC is expected to begin training camp in mid-to-late January. Thorrington said he expects the next coach to be in place prior to that, but didn't want to speculate how quickly the process will go.

"I think that there will be great options in different categories," Thorrington said. "So whether that's a domestic coach, whether that's a foreign coach, I think we have a very tight list of characteristics that are important to LAFC."

Regardless of where the next coach comes from Thorrington said there will not be a significant departure from the style of play LAFC established under Bradley.

"That is fast-paced, attacking, front foot, relentless, aesthetically pleasing, lots of goals," he said. "That's what we set out to do and that's what we'll continue to do."

The next big decision LAFC has to make is what to do with star forward Carlos Vela. After winning the league MVP award in 2019, Vela has been limited by injuries over the past two seasons. LAFC has the option to exercise a six-month contract option for Vela by the end of the month, sources told ESPN.

Thorrington declined comment on the specifics of Vela's contract, but said the club is in discussions with Vela's representatives "to determine what makes best sense," as they move forward.

If Vela does not return -- or is signed on a TAM-level deal -- LAFC would have two open Designated Player slots to fill, with one currently open following Diego Rossi's departure for Fenerbahce in Turkey. Uruguay international Brian Rodriguez is the third.