CARSON, Calif. – As the champagne rained through the LA Galaxy locker room on Saturday night, a few of the celebrants gave pause to consider what the club has accomplished the past four years. It's impressive stuff.
In Bruce Arena's four full seasons as general manager and head coach, the Galaxy have been to three MLS Cup finals, won the last two, captured two Supporters' Shields (missing a third by a point), posted a 77-33-35 league record (playoffs included) and placed 11 players on MLS' Best XI sides, one-quarter the total.
With David Beckham and perhaps Landon Donovan (and maybe more) moving on, an era is ending – and perhaps a dynasty with it.
And perhaps not.
“We're incredibly lucky here, and I'm certainly blessed to be part of this club, to be part of these championship teams,” defender Todd Dunivant told reporters following the 3-1 title-game triumph over Houston. “David is going to move on to other things, and I'm sure the Galaxy is going to go big with their next signing, and that's awesome. For us, it's onward and upwards.”
Arena has been a master team-builder throughout his career, but the job he did in creating this Galaxy group might be the best work he's done.
He dumped 19 players from the team he inherited when he was hired in August 2008 before the 2009 campaign began, brought in players he knew and respected – Gregg Berhalter, Mike Magee, Todd Dunivant, Eddie Lewis, Jovan Kirovski, Tony Sanneh, Donovan Ricketts and Dema Kovalenko among them – and over the next four seasons, added to the changing mix through drafts (Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza arriving in '09, Michael Stephens the following year), loans (Juninho, the past three seasons) and heady overseas acquisitions (Robbie Keane last year, Marcelo Sarvas and Christian Wilhelmsson for this season).
Only four players who were with the club when Arena arrived were on this year's roster: Donovan, Beckham, Edson Buddle (who left for a season) and Bryan Jordan.
Building a winner was simpler than it looks, he said.
“If you have any kind of intelligence, you look around [the roster in 2008] and you say we have Landon Donovan and David Beckham,” Arena said at Saturday's postgame press conference. “How do we put players around them to make them productive? That's what I did, to be honest with you. ... Every year, we tried to piece together what made sense.”
Beckham said the Galaxy “wasn't a great place to be” until Arena arrived, “settled everything down, and that's the reason we've had the success in the last four years.”
The plan is to keep it going, but first they'll celebrate what they've accomplished – with a fan gathering planned for the Home Depot Center on Monday evening.
“The one thing you start to think about,” Magee said, “when you look around, you see David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Even Bruce Arena. ... It's not hard to realize this will be spoken about for a long time. You know one day, they'll be talking about [this team]. Whether or not they mention my name – I doubt they will – but I'll be able to tell my kids I was on that team.”