What's Next for the LA Galaxy?
The LA Galaxy are MLS’s most glamorous team in its second largest market. It is coached by the most successful American soccer coach of all time, is captained by the most famous American soccer player today, and employs if not the most famous soccer player in the world, certainly the most recognizable. It also has the 2010 Keeper of the Year and all-star players around the pitch. And yet the team again has failed to win the MLS Cup, running its championship-less streak now to five years. Supporters can take solace in the Supporters Shield and CONCACAF Champions League qualification, but for a team with so much star power and so many expectations, last night’s result has to be disappointing.
So where do the Galaxy go from here?
In yesterday’s match, FC Dallas took advantage of a Galaxy back line that was a strength against Seattle the week before, and reduced the defense to watching Ferreira & Co. make plays. This is still, however, a young unit and the progress they made individually is impressive, especially Omar Gonzalez. Where there is continued concern is depth. Former USMNT player Eddie Lewis is retiring and injuries this season forced the team to shuffle its lineup toward the end of the season. This offseason the club should look to shore up the defenders for the multiple competitions and inevitable injuries.
The elephant in the room are the two most famous LA Galaxy players – David Beckham and Landon Donovan. Beckham looked to be finally healthy in the Seattle round, running up and down the pitch for all 90 minutes and, while not looking like Manchester United Beckham, still looked and played like a top-class MLS player. However, he looked stifled by the Dallas defense in yesterday’s match except for some excellent set pieces (although he may have been injured). He has already said he will play out the final year of his contract next year and will not go out on loan, but a factor to consider is his international duty. Fabio Capello seems more and more interested in Beckham playing for the national team, and a rugged UEFA schedule at his age could hinder his play in MLS. So next season, if Beckham does make the national team (and considering some of the call-ups recently England may need him) LA could again be playing with damaged or tired goods.
The second consideration is Landon Donovan. The face of U.S. soccer is still under contract and is being paid as a designated player, but recent interviews suggest he still wants to play overseas while at the peak of his game. And who can blame him – his time at Everton was successful for both parties. But if he does spend some time in England, he like Beckham will also need time on the national team as the US gears up for CONCACAF. Again, the LA Galaxy could be seeing the Landon Donovan of the end of the season – talented, but tired.
Donovan could be only one of the Galaxy players to be leaving the team. Young Juninho is only on loan to the Galaxy, and an international cub could make a run at the youngster after a very good season. And any one of the young defenders, especially Gonzalez, could catch the eye of an overseas club. But that is the life of any MLS team, and LA has one quality that can help guarantee its competitiveness – a designated player spot/money. Whether Ronaldinho or another star, the Galaxy are positioned by finance, roster, and location to be a prime destination for the next big name.
So while there are some worries with the Galaxy, they are still in a better position than most MLS clubs to continue their success. Don’t forget that as long as they have Bruce Arena, they also have one of the best coaches in the game, which is an obvious advantage. Some shrewed depth signings in the midfield and back line this offseason, as well as maybe another DP, and look for the Galaxy to be competing for the Supporters’ Shield again next season.