- LA Galaxy
- Western Conference
- Home: StubHub Center
- MLS CUP: 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014
- Supporters' Shield: 1998, 2002, 2010, 2011
- U.S. Open Cup: 2001, 2005
After five MLS Cup championships, including back-to-back runs with two clubs, another couple of title-game appearances, three Supporters' Shields, a CONCACAF Champions' Cup crown and a U.S. Open Cup title – along with everything achieved with the U.S. national team – what more is there for Bruce Arena to accomplish?
The revered coach turns 65 in September, his LA Galaxy contract is up at season's end, and he's mused about retirement in recent years, so it's possible – in no way certain – that we're seeing the last of Arena's work this year.
If everything plays out as planned, it also might be the best work the American coaching giant will do.
After last year's bid for a fourth MLS Cup title in five seasons skidded out of reach in the final weeks of the campaign, Arena has reimagined the Galaxy as a grittier, deeper, better-experienced bunch, adding nearly a dozen players, the most important among them over-30 veterans with a lot of talent and leadership ability.
On paper, this could be the finest team MLS has seen.
Giovani Dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes
"We don't know if it's a great roster," Arena said. "We only know that it's a great roster once they start playing and accomplish something. If they don't accomplish anything, its obviously not a great roster."
The Galaxy's first-choice lineup could have different players in seven spots on the field this year, with Robbie Rogers moving to right back and if Giovani Dos Santos plays wide with Gyasi Zardes up top, but strengthening the depth around the first XI is vital, as is Arena's management of the roster, since they could start as many as seven players older than 30.
Gone are three important figures from last year's team, with center back Omar Gonzalez and central midfielder Juninho heading to Mexico and the release of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts – a plug-in when Jaime Penedo abruptly took off last summer – but LA made upgrades at each post, with the additions of former Chivas USA and FC Dallas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, big, physical Belgian center back Jelle Van Damme and tough Dutch holding midfielder Nigel de Jong, the first true No. 6 LA has employed since Dema Kovalenko. De Jong and Steven Gerrard could form MLS's most effective central pairing behind captain Robbie Keane, who might be MLS's finest player.
English defender Ashley Cole takes over at left back, where his skill going forward will complement a group that will thrive with effective ball movement, and there's better depth on each line, in part with the return of Mike Magee from Chicago and the additions of MLS vet Jeff Larentowicz and Ghanaian youngster Emmanuel Boateng.
"Probably, definitely, on paper, it looks like one of the strongest teams we've had since I've been here," said Keane, who arrived in August 2011. "But we need to relay that to a game. It's all well and good on paper, as we know – we've seen teams over the years that on paper looked very, very good.
"I've got a good feeling about this team. I think we're a team of men, we look strong, and we've got a lot of quality in the team."
Armchair Analyst's Take
While most of the rest of the Western Conference is veering young, or making understated and under-the-radar moves, the Galaxy are being the Galaxy. Want a former English national teamer? Want a Dutch Kung-Fu master? Want a Belgian with Champions League experience? Then come on down to Carson.
Each of these moves was understandable in and of itself (I remain especially skeptical about Cole, who can no longer run, but I’d probably risk 7% of my salary cap on him for a year), but as a whole it makes it difficult to look at this LA team as one that can last through multiple competitions, time zones, altitudes and climates. It took Gerrard about 25 minutes to wear out in Denver – will these guys do any better?
That’s the obvious storyline. The other is this: I still don’t understand how a Keane/Zardes/Dos Santos attack works, because Keane and Dos Santos desperately want to occupy the same spot in attack and definitely don’t want to slide over to the wing in defense. The Galaxy, in short, have a roster full of recognizable names that may not fit together right.
Pretty soon, we’ll find out how much that matters.
Key Offseason Transactions
KEY PLAYERS IN:
KEY PLAYERS OUT:
Ashley Cole<br> Nigel de Jong<br> Jelle Van Damme<br><a class="small" href="//www.mlssoccer.com/topic/transactions">All transactions</a>
Omar Gonzalez<br> Juninho<br> Donovan Ricketts
Player to Watch: Sebastian Lletget
One of the Galaxy's breakout players of 2015 with seven goals and two assists, Lletget is still the least experienced probable starter on the roster and will have to fend off a challenge from Boateng and host of other youngsters if he wants to hold onto his place. He was great in spells, but look for 'Da Boy' to improve his consistency this time around.
Kennedy; Rogers - DeLaGarza - Van Damme - Cole; dos Santos - de Jong - Gerrard - Lletget; Zardes - Keane
Pick your poison with the the array of star-power in LA. Keane, dos Santos and Gerrard are all pricey but deserve consideration given what each can bring to the fantasy table. For $7.5m Rogers provides value in the back and new goalkeeper Kennedy is just $5.5m.
- Emmanuel Boateng
- Jose Villareal
- Mike Magee