They were the last definitive dynasty. We can have conversations about whether other teams might be a dynasty. The LA Galaxywere a dynasty. From 2010 to 2014, talking about the Galaxy felt like talking about the recent Golden State Warriors run. You could formulate reasons why they might not win the whole thing, but realistically you knew that if they stayed healthy then they were going to be the last one standing. In that five year stretch, they picked up three MLS Cups and two Supporters' Shields.
8 playoff appearances
3 MLS Cup appearances
3 MLS Cups (2011, 2012, 2014)
2 Supporters' Shields (2010, 2011)
The teams were stacked all the way through the lineup. Bruce Arena stuck consistently to a 4-4-2, which could often look like a 4-4-1-1 in attack thanks to Landon Donovan's versatility. The Shield-winning 2010 squad had a Best XI player in every part of the field — Donovan Ricketts in goal, Omar Gonzalez in defense, Landon Donovan in midfield (although LD often played forward), and Edson Buddle up top.
It wasn't Donovan, Gonzalez, or David Beckham who made the final three for the MVP, either, it was Buddle. They also had the best crop of role players you could find in MLS: Mike Magee (future MVP), A.J. DeLaGarza, Juninho, Todd Dunivant (five MLS Cup victories) and Sean Franklin. Not to mention their savvy veterans, Eddie Lewis, Chris Klein, Gregg Berhalter, Dema Kovalenko and Jovan Kirovski.
The Galaxy have received flack, rightfully so, for their roster-building in recent years, but they started the decade with perhaps the best-constructed team you could imagine in MLS.
Buddle departed prior to 2011 and the Galaxy used an assortment of strikers to start the new season — Juan Pablo Angel, Chad Barrett, Adam Christman — only for Robbie Keane to arrive midseason. The Galaxy put four players on the Best XI team and none of them were Keane. The Galaxy's starting XI for MLS Cup 2011 vs. Houston:
In Beckham's final season, 2012, the Galaxy ran it back again for back-to-back MLS Cups. By this point, the Shield wasn't on Bruce Arena's mind. He had aging legs on the team — particularly Beckham, Donovan and Keane — and knew that they couldn't go full speed for both the regular season and the playoffs. They prioritized Cup. As someone who was in the league at this time, it was actually annoying how the Galaxy coasted through the regular season yet you knew they'd be ready come the playoffs.
It caught up to them, or something caught up to them (maybe Donovan's preseason sabbatical), in 2013, the only year in the first half of the decade when they didn't win hardware. They returned to the podium in 2014, however, with an MLS Cup win over the New England Revolution. Keane scored the winner in extratime to send Donovan off to his [first] retirement in style.
It was a phenomenal five-year run for the Galaxy, one of the best in league history.
From there, it's been a steady decline. Donovan, Beckham, Gonzalez and Dunivant retired or departed. The Galaxy tried to make big moves to fill the holes, but few of them panned out. Giovani dos Santos, Steven Gerrard and Nigel de Jong failed to make an impact... or at least the impact you'd want. Bruce Arena left to take over the national team prior to the 2017 season.
The Galaxy attempted to start a new path. They hired their USL coach, Curt Onalfo, to take over the first team and usher in a new era of youth and development. Onalfo lasted just a few months before the club changed its mind. Seemingly a thousand miles away from the well-constructed, carefully planned team at the start of the decade, the Galaxy failed to make the playoffs for two straight years. Zlatan Ibrahimovic brought glitz and excitement in 2018, and a return to the playoffs in 2019, but the squad as a whole was far from functional.
The start of the new decade leaves the Galaxy at a crossroads. It's the same crossroads other teams on this list, Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls, are going through. All three clubs finished the decade on a downward trajectory. They went through the bulk of the decade as giants, only to finish with a whimper. Times are a-changin' in MLS. Atlanta United and LAFC have set a new bar.
It was a glorious 10 years for the Galaxy. Five major trophies in five years to get it started. They have a rich history as a club. They need to make big decisions moving forward, though, to make sure they aren't a club just about their history.
Clubs of the Decade
2. LA Galaxy
Check back Friday to find out No. 1 on Bobby Warshaw's list of the best clubs of the decade.