Another MLS season is upon us and the LA Galaxy will have a big task on their hands if they want to keep their MLS Championship trophy for another year.
Steven Gerrard was one of the biggest signings of MLS in the offseason but it was also one of the very few that Bruce Arena made to bolster this lineup to help them go for a record 6th MLS title.
While most of their team from last season is still intact, some key members are missing from the squad come opening day. Most notably gone are Landon Donovan and the midfield engine that is Marcelo Sarvas. What’s worse is that these two along with Juninho made up their midfield last season.
With Gerrard coming later in the summer, Arena will have to move some players around and trot out two lineups – one for the first half and the other will be for the second half of the season. On top of that, Gerrard will be coming off a gruesome schedule that consists of last year’s Premier League season, the 2014 World Cup, and the current BPL season. There are no guarantees that the will click with the team right away and might some time to get their wheels going towards the end of the season and into the playoffs.
The only additions the team made were:
- Ignacio Magnato (Superdraft), a 23-year-old midfield out of Iona College in New York. The forward had 11 goals and 5 assists for Iona in 2014 earning MAAC Offensive Player of the Year and NSCAA All-Northeast Region first team honors. He had 27 goals and 11 assists in all 4 years. Magnato grew up in Madrid, Spain and spent five years playing for Getafe II before coming to the States. He was also on trial at Manchester City back in 2010.
- Daniel Keller (Superdraft), a 22-year-old defender from the University of Louisville. Keller played in 74 games, scoring six goals and had four assists.
- Andrew Wolverton (Superdraft), a goalkeeper out of Penn State. Wolverton was a four-year starter and is the current all-time leader in shutouts (32) and goals against average (0.53).
The back line will most likely stay the same but with Todd Dunivant back in the squad, Arena has a tough decision to make as to who will start at the full back positions.
Robbie Rogers had a great season and newfound life at left back last year.
Dan Gargan did a great job stepping into the right back role when James Riley tore his ACL in the 2nd game of the season ruling him out for the whole year and Todd Dunivant was out for most of last year due to injury.
AJ DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez will start at the center back positions.
OUT: James Riley (option declined) and Kyle Venter (waived).
IN: Andrew Wolverton, GK (Superdraft).
It will be interesting to see what Arena will do here in the midfield.
Juninho and Baggio Husidic will most likely start in central midfield with Stefan Ishizaki on the right flank.
On the left flank, the Galaxy will have a few options to play with.
Bradford Jamieson IV played a few pre-season games at left midfield and some pundits think he will have the starting position come Friday night but at 18 years old, the young Homegrown player still has a lot to learn. On the plus side, he was named to the team that help the United States qualify for the U-20’s World Cup in New Zealand. Jamieson played in all 6 games, making 5 starts and scoring 2 goals.
Gyasi Zardes has had experience in that position back in 2013 and could be an option if Arena really needs him to be there but that will leave Keane with someone like Alan Gordon up top. Zardes had a breakout year last season where he 17 goals include one in the MLS Cup Final.
Robbie Rogers is also a candidate since his natural position was on the wings in midfield before converting to full back.
OUT: Marcelo Sarvas (traded to Colorado Rapids) and Landon Donovan (retired).
IN: Steven Gerrard, Daniel Keller (Superdraft), and Ignacio Magnato (Superdraft).
Reigning MVP, Robbie Keane, will start up top again with Gyasi Zardes. Between the both of them, they had 38 goals and the duo scored both goals in the MLS Cup Final.
Along with them, Alan Gordon re-signed with the team in the offseason and rumor is that Edson Buddle will be joining the team before the season starts on Friday.
OUT: Chandler Hoffman (option declined) and Rob Friend (retired).
Attacking and defending isn’t a problem for the Galaxy as they had the highest goal difference last year with +32. The big problem is how the team will click when Gerrard arrives. There are a few questions as to where he will play and if he can make an impact.
He isn’t the same box-to-box midfielder anymore but can still contribute in the midfield playing the #10 role. Tracking back might be a problem if he ends up playing the attacking midfield position.
If he plays the holding midfielder position, Husidic would have to move to the left flank leaving Juninho in central midfield in front of Gerrard.
Jason Kreis has stated that players that come in for the second half of the season rarely can contribute to their team.
And like I mentioned before, there aren’t any guarantees to the lineup clicking right from the get go. The Galaxy has had slow starts at the beginning of the season and then making it up towards the middle and end of the season. Gerrard is set to arrive halfway through the MLS season so he will be coming in at a time when the team is firing on all cylinders.
Also, will the team be able to replace the contributions of Donovan and Sarvas in the midfield? Sarvas and Juninho were the best pairing in midfield last year and Donovan dished out 21 assists while 13 goals in 2014.
If they are able to get everyone going towards the end of the season, I have no doubt that the LA Galaxy will be lifting another MLS Cup come December.