The LA Galaxy’s five MLS Cups not only represent a proud history, but also create sky-high expectations. And by all accounts and measures, the Southern California bunch fell drastically short of them in 2020.
Look no further than how LA were one of eight clubs to miss the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs and finished 20th overall, the third time they’ll fallen short of the postseason in the last four years. Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto was also fired in late October, marquee signing Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez never quite hit the right notes in the post-Zlatan era and they allowed 46 goals, the second-highest total in MLS.
So where do they go from here? Interim head coach Dominic Kinnear feels it starts with understanding that the Galaxy standard is much higher.
“I think when you look back at the season, for the group that comes back, it has to be understood that what has happened this year is well below standard,” Kinnear said after Sunday's 3-0 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps FC. “This team should not be below the playoff line even when MLS is adding teams to the playoff picture. Everyone should be disappointed. If anybody walks away and thinks the season was a good one for them, I think they’d be mistaken. And then it’s important for us as a group, for the technical staff, to look at the roster and try to improve upon that. ... There needs to be improvements in a lot of positions. ”
As Kinnear noted, LA likely need roster improvements in several areas. There’s also the looming question of whether Cristian Pavon remains in LA long-term after recording 13 goals and 15 assists in 33 games while on loan from Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors.
Probably atop the to-do list is patching a porous defense, a requirement regardless of who’s named as their next head coach. Others like midfielder Sebastian Lletget, right back Julian Araujo and attacker Efrain Alvarez seem like building blocks, but truthfully there are question marks in the entire team.
“In terms of the club, I think it's very important,” veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan said of the pending offseason. “I think there are going to be big decisions that are going to be made, whether that’s about players or the next coach and things like that. So, we have to get it right.
“This club has very high standards for itself, they have set those standards over the 25 years of the league and being the most successful team in MLS history. We have to hold ourselves to be very accountable and have those high standards. Going forward we all want to be a part of winning teams and we want to bring championships back to Southern California. We have to challenge ourselves to get this right.”
The mandate before LA is clear, and now they’ll need to configure their 2021 orientation correctly to achieve success. This year's 6W-12L-4D record will hang over them all offseason, and anything but a serious rebound will be a letdown.
“Where we are at, we had a little bit of hope after the first win against Real Salt Lake, but obviously these last two games didn’t really count in the standings,” Kinnear said. “They counted for me and for the players and it mattered on the field. But for us to be fighting for a playoff spot, for the LA Galaxy to be fighting for a playoff spot late in the year, for me, is not the story that should be told."