A link to the past and a force of the present left the LA Galaxy on Monday.
Within hours of each other, assistant coach Cobi Jones and forward Edson Buddle officially left their respective roles for new clubs. And just like that, the Galaxy's ultimate goal in 2011—that is, winning their first Cup since 2005—got a little more difficult.
Jones is now the associate director of soccer for the New York Cosmos, joining the club as an executive who will oversee player management while also serving as an ambassador and liaison for the team. The club does not yet have any players on its roster.
Buddle, meanwhile, left the Galaxy and MLS on a free transfer, joining German club FC Ingolstadt.
The Galaxy’s offseason was supposed to have allowed for the Supporters' Shield-winners to retool for an MLS Cup 2011 run; instead, the club now is left with a pair of unexpected holes to fill.
The loss of Buddle presents the most immediate obstacle to overcome. After all, Buddle scored 17 goals in a remarkable season for the Galaxy. Aside from his timely tallies, Buddle set the tone for the club’s play—the Galaxy were virtually unbeatable when Buddle scored a goal in 2010.
Fittingly, Buddle played his way onto the United States’ World Cup squad and was named Galaxy Most Valuable Player last season as well.
But the club also picked up Juan Pablo Ángel in the Re-Entry Draft. Thus far, however, the two sides have not come to an agreement over a contract.
[inline_node:324836] The loss of Jones, meanwhile, could wind up being the bigger loss. If any person ever embodied an MLS club, it is Jones for LA. From Day 1, Jones was a fixture with the Galaxy. He was the club’s first-ever player, allocated to the Galaxy on March 6, 1996, instantly becoming a fan favorite and a go-to player. Jones helped deliver the club’s two MLS Cup titles while playing a major role in the Galaxy's reaching the final in five of the first nine MLS seasons.
Aside from his talent—and recognizable dreadlocked look—Jones offered unmatched stability and a familiar face. When he faced questions about retirement due to ongoing injury concerns in 2005, he responded with a strong campaign and played a key role in the club’s US Open and MLS Cup wins.
When the club landed David Beckham in early 2007 and a tumultuous ride ensued, Jones was a stabilizing force, helping to bridge the past to the new-look Galaxy. And when Bruce Arena arrived to settle things down in 2008, Jones was there, even managing one game on an interim basis while Arena and the Galaxy negotiated their terms.
While replacements for Buddle (Ángel) and Jones (newly designated player/coach Gregg Berhalter on the sideline, Landon Donovan in club lore) might already be in-house, the Galaxy will have a different look and feel when the 2011 season starts.
And how the team fares without these two key figures could determine whether the club that has come so close to the MLS Cup in recent years will actually lift in 2011.