CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy worked hard to upgrade their roster over the winter, bringing in new dimensions at forward, depth and dynamism in midfield and a little cover in the back.
Dan Gargan might have seemed an afterthought in all this movement, but he's emerged as one of LA's most consistent contributors.
The 31-year-old defender came into preseason camp as a non-roster invitee and, despite injuries that slowed his progress, won a role as a backup outside back. He got the call when James Riley went down with a knee injury in the second league game of the season and has rarely been off the field since.
Gargan has made 13 starts at right back in the Galaxy's last's 14 competitive matches – all but the US Open Cup loss last month to the NASL's Carolina RailHawks – and team brass are very happy with what they're getting from him.
"I give Dan a lot of credit because he's a journeyman guy, but we always knew there was an intelligence about him and a work ethic that you can't underestimate," said associate head coach Dave Sarachan. "For us, he's sort of grabbed the reins and gone with it. He gives us a lot of ability to get up the line, get service in the box, and his defending's been pretty good. I think he's really achieved a lot in a short period of time with us."
He's been the steadiest regular along the backline, doing the job game after game as head coach Bruce Arena has juggled players in the middle and at left back. He’s especially made an impact with his forays up the right flank. He assisted goals in an early season win over Chivas USA – his club debut, coming on after Riley tore his meniscus – and draws at Vancouver and at Portland. He's sure to get the call again Saturday night when the Galaxy play host to Real Salt Lake (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
"I believe in myself," Gargan said. "I believed that I was going to come here, work hard and earn a position on the field. When I was [finally healthy and fit] I feel like I've performed to how I know that I can.
"I still have more to give, and I feel like I'm starting to get into a good rhythm in terms of game-shape, which is allowing me to do certain things."
Gargan, who has been in the league, aside from a brief two-year retirement, since 2005, previously played at Colorado, Toronto FC, Chicago and last year in San Jose. He's made 20-plus appearances three times and started as many as 25 games, for TFC in 2010. The amount of time he's gotten with the Galaxy, and what he's done with it, has turned heads.
"When we first acquired him, I think the expectation was that maybe he'd be a reserve, a great guy to have," Sarachan said. “But in this moment, he's been a very good starter, one of our best players overall.
"… The graph line never goes real high or real low. There's a steadiness about him, and you can always predict pretty much what he's going to give you each and every time, and that's a good thing."
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The competition for jobs is about to heat up, however, with Omar Gonzalez back from the World Cup, good depth in central defense. Robbie Rogers has been solid at left back, Todd Dunivant is running and Riley is ahead of schedule in his return.
Gargan is looking forward to it.
"That's the idea," he said. "You want competition everywhere on the field. That's a lot of veteran guys and a lot of experience in a lot of different positions that will help our team. ... I think those things kind of shake out and take care of themselves, but the competition level will only increase with those guys back."