2017 was the single worst year in LA Galaxy history. Or at least it was right up until the season ended, because as soon as the curtain rang down, Sigi Schmid got to work.
And what followed the worst season in team history, one that featured a comically inept home performance...
...was one of the most relentlessly, doggedly impressive offseasons in team history. On the face of it, it's right up there with 2008 – back when it was Bruce Arena taking care of the family business, settling all the debts and remaking a roster around two pillars (Landon Donovan and David Beckham back then) by jettisoning dead weight and solidifying things from back to front.
Schmid's done a similar job. He didn't have the luxury of going out to get new Designated Players since none of the three on the roster (Giovani Dos Santos, Jonathan Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini) can be bought down with TAM. So like Arena 10 years ago he had to strengthen the roster on the margins and get creative with the salary budget.
That, my friends, is what allocation money is made for. And that's what Schmid has, for the most part, gone to battle with. It was trading Gyasi Zardes and cash for Ola Kamara, and signing the likes of Jørgen Skjelvik, and acquiring Perry Kitchen's rights from D.C. United, and maybe soon importing Zlatan himself as a TAM player, not a DP. One weakness after another has been methodically addressed to the point that it's difficult to look at LA and say "well, this is a clear area of need." All the "needs" have been taken care of and they've moved onto the "wants."
So last year's worst team now looks very much like it has a chance to be one of this year's best. It's been a good offseason in Carson.
What would make it a great offseason, once we look back? Kitchen – who had a nightmare in Europe – has to put that behind him and play like the fringe USMNT talent he is, for one. Kamara has to prove he wasn't a "system" striker (Gregg Berhalter has a way of getting his No. 9s tap-ins that other teams just don't generate) for two. And for three, No. 2 overall SuperDraft pick Tomas Hilliard-Arce has to be a stud at central defense because I'll admit to a level of worry about Skjelvik's ability to be a rock. We've seen mixed results from CBs coming over from Scandinavia in the TAM era, and while I think Skjelvik's a cut above many of the guys who've struggled, nobody's under the illusion that he's a defense-first center back. The guy balls, and needs a steady, no frills, athletic presence next to him.
None of the other three guys in the CB rotation have the potential to do that as well as Hilliard-Arce, who's one of the all-time leaders and winners in college soccer, and who's impressed thus far in preseason. If he keeps on that trajectory, LA will eclipse 15 home points by the middle of May.