The move opened a Designated Player slot, with striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and forward Kevin Cabral occupying the other two high-profile roster spots. And when a club of LA’s history, prestige and willingness to spend has a DP tag to work with, inquisitive minds wonder when it could be filled.
Head coach Greg Vanney addressed the topic in broader strokes Thursday from LA’s 2022 preseason camp, acknowledging the flexibility and options at their disposal. Earlier this offseason, the club’s propensity for landing Ligue 1 or Ligue 2 players again surfaced with links to Montpellier captain Téji Savanier, a DP-level talent.
“Yes, we have specific targets and players that we are assessing, we’re communicating with on a consistent basis,” Vanney said. “As it relates to DPs it’s more than one, it’s a couple deals, a couple conversations that are going on until we close out the one that fits for us.”
Targeted Allocation Money (TAM)-level signings are also a possibility, Vanney said, as he heads into year No. 2 on LA’s sidelines. Of note: The club’s roster-building process took a turn in November when general manager Dennis te Kloese departed to become CEO of Feyenoord, the same Eredivisie side that just landed Colorado Rapids homegrown midfielder Cole Bassett on loan.
“In terms of TAM positions, yes, we have targets of guys that we are very interested in,” Vanney said. “Some might be able to happen fast, some might take a little bit of time, and if things take time they give us the ability to be flexible if we decide we need something a little different in the team as we move forward. So again, we have three roster spots available in our 20 [senior ones] and some resources to be able to help have some impactful players. We’re pleased with that.”
As the DP search continues at Dignity Health Sports Park, LA have brought in some MLS veterans this offseason via free agency, signing fullback Kelvin Leerdam and left-sided utilityman Raheem Edwards. They’re also expected to soon complete a trade for midfielder Mark Delgado from Toronto FC, with Edwards and Delgado both featuring under Vanney during their days in Ontario’s capital city.
That trio supplements a Galaxy side brimming with youthful talent after Serbian international striker Dejan Joveljic was acquired last August on a U22 Initiative deal. Rising Mexican internationals and academy products Julian Araujo and Efrain Alvarez are both entering U22 deals of their own. There’s also a strong French influence, with Cabral, winger Samuel Grandsir and midfielder Rayan Raveloson all expected to progress in 2022. Ditto for goalkeeper Jonathan Bond and center back Derrick Williams.
They’re highlights of a Chicharito-led group that ebbed and flowed with the Mexican superstar’s health in 2021, missing the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after a Decision Day draw against Minnesota United FC. Chicharito, entering his third season in LA, had 17 goals and three assists in 21 games last year – good enough for third in the Golden Boot presented by Audi race, though that couldn't overcome the club winning two of their last 15 matches (2W-6L-7D).
Now, Vanney knows progress is paramount for a Galaxy group that’s made the playoffs once in the last five years.
“I think we have to take another step forward,” Vanney said, “which is now that guys really know each other, they’ve played together, they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they understand where each other come from a little bit different than they did a year ago, they know each other, they’ve gone through the rigors of an MLS season. Even having failed at the end, it changes the energy level of the group that comes in, it changes the hunger level.”
As conversations about a DP and other senior-level additions progress, Vanney is confident their ceiling will raise. And in preseason’s early days, he already feels their squad is further along as a Feb. 27 home opener nears against MLS Cup 2021 champions New York City FC.
“I see that already when the group arrives and the hunger and the competitiveness, it’s far more competitive one through 25 this year than it was last year. It’s not even close,” Vanney said. “And when the training environment is more competitive the guys will be more prepared week in and week out and I think we’ll be better for that.”