LAFC used a franchise-record 28 players in 2020 despite playing the shortest season in MLS history. So when general manager John Thorrington started rebuilding his roster for 2021, versatility was something he wanted on every resume.
His first two additions of the new year reflect that with the club announcing Monday it has traded for Real Salt Lake forward Corey Baird and signed South Korean international Kim Moon-hwan. Baird, 24, a former MLS rookie of the year, can play anywhere across the front line while Kim, 25, primarily a right back, can play as a winger or in the midfield as well.
Baird also fills a need for experience. After losing veterans Adama Diomande and Bradley Wright-Phillips, LAFC entered the conclusion of the CONCACAF Champions League last month without a backup forward who had played more than 21 games in MLS. Baird appeared in at least that many in each of his three seasons with Real Salt Lake, posting career highs for goals (eight) and assists (five) in 2018 when he was the league’s top rookie.
In his first conversation with Bob Bradley on Sunday, Baird said the coach stressed his versatility.
“I’ll be looked at across the front line,” said Baird, who has 15 goals and 13 assists in 83 MLS games. “That’s something that’s positive for me, where I can play in those spots.”
LAFC gave Real Salt Lake $500,000 in general allocation money, a 2021 international roster slot and undisclosed “future considerations” for Baird, who made $70,000 in 2019, the last year for which salary figures are available.
Kim, meanwhile, could fill a big hole at right back for LAFC, which used midfielder Latif Blessing at that position for much of 2020. LAFC struggled defensively all season, conceding a franchise-worst 1.77 goals a game.
Kim, who has made 11 appearances for South Korea’s national team, played 105 games for Busan IPark, helping the club win promotion to Korea’s top flight last year. But the team is beginning a rebuild after being relegated back to the K League 2.
The acquisition was funded using targeted allocation money. Kim will be the fifth South Korean to play in MLS.
“[Kim] is a dynamic, exciting player who also brings top international experience to our team. He is an intelligent and versatile defender in the prime of his career,” Thorrington said in a statement.