2012 in Review: LA Galaxy
MLSsoccer.com continues to take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 16-12-6 (54 points); 59 GF / 47 GA (+12 GD)
The LA Galaxy sat last in the Western Conference with a 3-8-2 mark when Major League Soccer took a break for World Cup qualifying as May turned to June, something of a disaster after their wire-to-wire run to the MLS Cup title in 2011. Could things have gotten any worse?
They didn't. With a rejuvenated Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham setting the tone, Juninho and Mike Magee stepping up in midfield, and a porous backline stiffening once Omar Gonzalez returned from a torn ACL suffered while on loan in Germany back in January, LA were MLS' best club the second half of the season.
The Galaxy claimed 43 points from their final 21 league games to reach the postseason, romped into next year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, ousted Vancouver, San Jose and Seattle to reach the MLS Cup final for the third time in four years, then knocked off Houston at home in the title game to become just the third club to win back-to-back championships in MLS' 17-year history.
It served as a splendid end to the Beckham era – the league's signature figure announced just before the triumph over the Dynamo that he would not be returning in 2013.
Best Moment of the Year
It has to be when Omar Gonzalez nodded Juninho's chip over Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall to tie the score an hour into the MLS Cup final, the first strike as LA took command of the title game and snagged their second straight championship, right? Probably. But Landon Donovan's heroics in the 3-2 comeback win June 20 at Real Salt Lake – two empty-net goals and a nifty assist to Mike Magee – were pretty special, too, and provided the turning point in the Galaxy's last-to-champs about-face.
Worst Moment of the Year
Nick Soolsma's too-easy goal midway through the second half of the Galaxy's third game of the season ended one dream – it gave Toronto FC a 2-1 victory in the decisive second leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals – while exposing myriad troubles that would define the Galaxy's horrid first three months of the campaign. The championship hangover was in effect, even if it hadn't yet been recognized, and LA's backline was in shambles without the injured Gonzalez, whose return in July just happened to coincide with the turnaround.
The Galaxy had perhaps a half-dozen legitimate MLS Goal of the Year candidates, whether finalists or not – that's what happens when you've got Beckham and Juninho hitting upper 90s from distance. Each had a real prize from about 30 yards – Beckham's blast in a mid-July win over Portland and Juni's from the same spot against Vancouver at the start of September. Better yet was Keane's low, tight-angle volley from the left side of the box and just inside the right post in a 2-1 loss Oct. 6 to Real Salt Lake. Juninho's high-arcing cross after a throw-in on the right flank was nearly as good.
Josh Saunders might have had his struggles in 2012, but he made some insane saves, none more spectacular than back-to-back-to-back leaping stops on Chris Wondolowski, Rafael Baca and Wondolowski again in the loss to San Jose at the end of June in Stanford Stadium. Bigger, but perhaps not better, was his diving parry of Omar Cummings' penalty kick in the third minute of stoppage to secure a 2-1 victory April 21 at Colorado, a key triumph, as it turned out, in claiming home-field advantage for the MLS Cup final.
Robbie Keane, for whatever reason, didn't show a whole lot before heading off to Euro 2012. After Ireland's disastrous finish, he came back and took over, scoring 20 goals (six in the MLS Cup playoffs) with seven assists in 26 games from June 23 on. Goals were just part of what he provided: Keane was a leader in the locker room and a focal point of the attack, combining with nearly everybody else to open and exploit space in and around opposing defenses and lift the Galaxy several notches. He was arguably the league's best player over the last five months and LA's unquestionable MVP.
The Galaxy got a good look at Marcelo Sarvas when they faced Alajuelense twice in CONCACAF Champions League play in fall 2012. They signed him in December, and, once he got his bearings in Major League Soccer, added to LA's attacking depth in midfield with consistently incisive performances. The Brazilian veteran made 28 starts, all competitions, including the final 14 regular-season games, and appeared in all six playoff matches. He assisted both goals and won MLS Save of the Week for a sliding stop of a Conor Casey shot in a 2-0 win Sept. 14 against Colorado.
1. Find a DP: The “Beckham Experiment,” a success on virtually every level, is over after six seasons, and although Arena says there is “no urgency” to replace David Beckham with another Designated Player – “no urgency” to replace him at all – that's not how AEG does business. They want a big name, and Kaká is the one getting all the attention right now.
2. Get Donovan back: The Galaxy captain (right) is burnt out, focused on spending time with family and not thinking about his future in the game. Once he's had the appropriate rest, however long that may be, he'll theoretically decide whether he still wants to play. LA are giving him his space and will “support” whatever decision he makes. But they want him back, and the expectation is he will return. When? We'll see.
3. Improve in the nets: LA's weakest link was at the back, with Saunders enduring a difficult first full season as a starter. He spent time in a rehab clinic (for stress, he said) and interspersed some fine work within iffy performances marred by struggles to hold onto balls and questionable decision-making. Backup Brian Perk might be ready to step in and LA picked up Will Hesmer from Columbus in the Re-Entry Draft, but both pose serious question marks. Is Hesmer healthy? Does Perk have enough experience to backstop a title contender?