The Runner Sports

MLS 20 In 20: L.A. Galaxy

The MLS version of the Galacticos, L.A. Galaxy seem to always replace stars with bigger stars.  David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and the list goes on and on.  The only thing stopping the Galaxy from winning the Cup year in and year out is the salary cap (although L.A. has been to nearly half of the Championship games).  This particular season the Galaxy have been victims of the salary cap, having to shed a few high-priced contributors, yet they have replaced those players with even bigger stars.  Without further ado, here is MLS 20 In 20 L.A. version.

Key Additions:

GK Dan Kennedy (Last Club Dallas)

M/D Jeff Larentowicz (LC: Chicago Fire)

F Mike Magee (LC: Chicago Fire)

F Emmanuel Boateng (LC: Helsingborgs IF)

D Jelle Van Damme (LC: Standard Liege)

D Ashley Cole (LC: AS Roma)

D Nigel de Jong (LC: AC Milan)

I wrote about the additions of de Jong, Cole, and Van Damme a few weeks ago so I’ll focus in this space on the lower key signings.

The signings L.A. made this offseason were quite clearly executed with one goal in mind and that is to make one, or two last runs with the current core.  Instead of bringing in a younger DP, L.A. went with veterans designed to win in the here and now.

The other angle to the L.A. Galaxy offseason is that in the first MLS free agency in history, the big players were predictably tempted to the west coast.  Two big time veteran players were brought in to provide cover for the starters.  Former MVP Mike Magee, has battled injury for the last few years, but with the reduced workload that he can expect, Magee can give maximum effort.  At 31, Magee is still young enough –if he can overcome injury– that he can contribute as a winger/withdrawn forward in the dozen games that L.A. expects him to play.

The same can be said of Larentowicz as he has been a consistent force on three different MLS clubs.  In the nearly 300 MLS appearance career of Larentowicz, he has led New England and Colorado to four separate MLS Cups.  A player who can play either center back or holding midfielder, Larentowicz has the tactical acumen to take spot starts at either position.

Finally, Kennedy is another MLS vet, who has made a boatload of appearances and shouldn’t be the liability in net that Donovan Ricketts was.  Kennedy was picked up for virtually nothing this offseason as he was deemed surplus by FC Dallas.

The bench unit that L.A. could trot out there could probably compete with most MLS sides and beat many. Manager Bruce Arena is a master of manipulating the MLS roster building techniques and has once again constructed a side capable of winning the Cup.

Key Subtractions:

D Todd Dunivant

F Edson Buddle

D Tommy Meyer

GK Donovan Ricketts

D Omar Gonzalez

M Juninho

The only real losses from this list are Gonzalez and Juninho.  Both of those players are guys that were raised by the Galaxy and it is sad to see them heading to Liga MX.  Both of these players were victims of the MLS salary cap, yet with the money L.A. saved, they were able to make significant moves.

Gonzalez’ career seemed to have stalled as he was a well above average center back, but never quite the star that many expected.  Dominant in the air, Gonzalez was best when paired with another center back capable of covering with speed.  He had made multiple big time appearances for the USMNT including the knockout round against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.  His MLS career highlight was a goal against the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Cup.  Here is to the hope Gonzalez can continue his progression for the sake of the USMNT.

Juninho was a workman-like holding midfielder that was willing to do the dirty work and running for his older teammates.  At times, he was also capable of threading a seeing-eye through ball.  He is another player who should have a good portion of his career ahead of him as he is still only 27.


2016 Storylines:

CONCACAF Champions League:

I have written about the desperate need MLS has for a successful run against Liga MX and L.A. might have the best opportunity to win this competition.  They have assembled a cast of stars who, if capable of jelling quickly, can compete with any club from Mexico.  The question is how will L.A. do with jumping right into the thick of Champions League action.  The Galaxy have yet to play an MLS match, yet February 24th they are matched up with Santos Laguna.

L.A. hasn’t looked good thus far in their humbling loss to Seattle 4-0 earlier this week.

How will an old team hold up:

L.A. will likely have seven starters over the age of 30 to begin the season.  There are several other key contributors that are also on the decline in their career arc.  In any sport, that is a bad idea and is especially so in MLS given the often physical running style.  In addition to that, L.A. must contend with this season’s Champions League, U.S. Open Cup and national team callups.  How will those old legs hold up over a grueling season?

Will young guns get a shot:

On the flip side of the last question, L.A. has one of the best academy systems in MLS.  The problem is that the Galaxy block their most promising prospects with the older vets. Oscar Sorto, Bradford Jamieson IV, Raul Mendiola, Jose Villarreal, and new signing Emmanuel Boateng are all players that would get playing time at nearly every other MLS club.  Thanks to L.A. II, these youngsters can receive playing time in USL, but that isn’t the level for optimum development.  How much playing time will these young prospects get?

How quickly can the new guys build chemistry:

As evidence of their loss to Seattle, the Galaxy have a long way to go before they are ready to compete for the MLS Cup.  Bruce Arena is a master of crafting his clubs and bringing them on slowly to peak late in the season. Will L.A. get up to speed quick enough to compete for the Supporters Shield, because we all know they’ll contend later in the season.


2016 Reasonable Expectations:

Obviously, L.A. have the talent to win the Cup, the only question is can they win the Champions League, the Open Cup, or Supporters Shield?  Their potential starting lineup is as loaded as any other in the history of MLS.

My prediction is that L.A. will have a slow enough start to fall short of the Supporters Shield.  A solid finishing spot of second is certainly in play, but I’ll say third is a likely finish.


Mainstream Sport Equivalent: 

The easy comparison is the L.A. Dodgers.  Both teams spend money for fun and have high-priced stars both domestically and internationally (have you seen the Dodgers spending on Cuban players?).  Both have an aging roster, but will be fine because they can spend their way out of trouble.

Adrian Gonzalaz = Robbie Keane

Both older players who still produce to a large degree, but for how much longer?

Carl Crawford/Andre Either/Chase Utley = Steven Gerrard/Ashley Cole/Nigel de Jong

All players who are clearly on the decline that are hoping for a few more productive seasons.  All have carried clubs in the past but are no longer able.

Yasiel Puig = Giovani dos Santos

Both are electrifying players in the prime of their career but have at times had trouble adjusting.

Corey Seager = Gyasi Zardes

The next great hope for their respective teams. Both have developing to do, but the talent is evident.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of MLS 20 In 20.  Catch up on the first three:

D.C. United

Real Salt Lake

Seattle Sounders

John Harbeck

Ohio sports and all things soccer.If you like my writing follow me @JHarbeck5 on twitter

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