A year ago, Galaxy fans usually saw either Sasha Victorine or Alejandro Moreno patrolling the left side for head coach Steve Sampson. But in what has been nothing short of a dizzying offseason, both Victorine and Moreno have parted ways with Los Angeles, and with their departure, there now is an opening wide in the midfield that needs to be filled.
The early spring signing of Guillermo Ramirez could be used to fill that void. However, with Ramirez's commitments with the Guatemalan national team, someone is going to have to step up in his stead.
Josh Gardner is hoping that he is that someone. A product of the University of Cincinnati, Gardner is a natural left-footed player with tremendous speed. That's the upside.
The downside is that Gardner appeared in only two games all of last season, logging just 25 minutes. Tactically speaking the young professional is still learning how to play both sides of the ball.
While several MLSers were heading overseas in hopes of winning contracts with high profile clubs, Gardner went abroad to work on his game.
"I think that going over to England over Christmas was good for me," Gardner said. "Playing with guys who are used to serving the ball in from the wing was a great experience for me."
Sampson has noticed the improvement in Gardner's play too.
"Between Josh and Mamba (Mubarike Chisoni), those guys are going to vie for that left side midfield job," said the Galaxy boss.
There is no doubt that there will be opportunities for Gardner to see the field this year. In an exhibition game earlier this winter against Mexican club side Necaxa, Gardner first showed the promise ahead when he played very well. More recently, in preseason scrimmages and also on the Galaxy's trip to Spain, Gardner has shown steady improvement.
That is what will be required from Gardner if he is to capitalize on the opportunities available to him.
"I'm not too worried if I (start) or not because I know during the season I'll get a lot of playing time," Gardner said. "To be able to get on the field will be a great accomplishment for me."
A regular starting role might not be in the cards for Gardner this season, but he will almost certainly be a player that the Galaxy will be looking to at different times this season. Between World Cup qualifying and the CONCACAF Gold Cup later in the summer, Los Angeles will need a lot more than just 25 minutes to be filled this summer, and Gardner hopes he's the one Sampson picks as the man for the job.
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.