CARSON, Calif. – Nigel de Jong's addition to the LA Galaxy roster, officially announced Wednesday, completes a most audacious offseason for Bruce Arena and Co., who greatly remade their roster with a nearly a dozen new players, including three big internationals.
De Jong is the biggest get of the bunch, a hard-nosed holding midfielder who has starred for the Netherlands in the last two World Cups and last two European Championships and arrives on a free transfer from AC Milan.
“You got a guy [in de Jong] that's got a ton of experience and is an outstanding defensive midfielder,” Arena told MLSsoccer.com on the eve of the announcement. “Even though there's more to his game than that, but he's a guy who can be a real anchor for us in the midfield, can complement the players around him, and we expect him to be a real good player.”
De Jong, who is expected to be in Southern California next week, arrives on the heels of English left back Ashley Cole and Belgian center back Jelle Van Damme, the other big names in a group of newcomers that include respected MLS veterans Mike Magee, Dan Kennedy and Jeff Larentowicz, and Ghanaian speedster Emmanuel Boateng.
“[De Jong is] an important piece to the team,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan told MLSsoccer.com. “We haven't had a true guy like him [in central midfield] in years, where you count on him to be disciplined as a holding guy, cleaning up things centrally.
“I just think that's going to be an important asset within our team, to allow others to sort of do what they do knowing that you have a guy like him that can help clean up on the defensive end.”
Arena made the moves within an always-difficult salary cap, with help from Target Allocation Money and funds opened with the transfers of defender Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Juninho to Mexican clubs.
Arena said he'd worked through the challenges constantly since the Galaxy's last campaign ended at the end of October with a Knockout Round defeat at Seattle, LA's earliest playoff exit ever.
“Follow the rules and be creative and understand what you're trying to accomplish,” Arena said. “It's probably an exercise I went through 10 times a day since the end of the  season. There's a lot of thinking behind it, and I think we were well-prepared to make these moves. [You have to] understand how to go about doing it.”
Cole, Kennedy and Van Damme figure to be regular starters in the back, and options in the front six include Robbie Keane, Giovani Dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Sebastian Lletget, Baggio Husidic and Jose Villarreal, in addition to Gerrard, de Jong, Magee, Boateng and Larentowicz.
Finding minutes for everybody will be a challenge, but Arena acknowledged there likely would be a “committee” approach to a number of positions.
“We lacked depth last year,” he said. “Some players had to play more than I think was necessary ... and we could have used some extra players to help us along. So I think it's important to have depth at all of the positions, and this year I think we do.”
Said Sarachan: “Every great team I've been a part of, we've had depth and guys pushing each other in training. ... There's enough on our plate where we're going to need a lot of depth. I think you can never have enough good talent.”
Now it's about building chemistry, hopefully before the Galaxy's opener Feb. 24, a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal opener against Santos Laguna at StubHub Center. On paper, this looks like the most talented roster the Galaxy have fielded.
“We'll see when it's all said and done,” Arena said. “You don't win any games on paper, so we'll see if we can make this group into a team on the field.
“[It's] why you play the games. That tells you how good you can be and how good you are. We'll let it play itself out.”