Season Preview - Los Angeles Galaxy

If the Sounders were looking at a list of MLS clubs to emulate, the Los Angeles Galaxy would probably be right at the bottom. Which is exactly where they finished in MLS last year.

Embarrassingly, the MLS team with the most recognition worldwide was also the league's worst club, ending the season in a tie with San Jose on 33 points. And that was with David Beckham playing at mostly full strength and Landon Donovan playing with the strength of 3 men. Their heroics were not nearly enough to make up for an atrocious backline and the ineptitude of goalkeeper Steve Cronin, who lost playing time to the just as bad Josh Wicks. Wicks came from USL club Portland Timbers. If you’re relying on Portland to help fix your team, you know you’re crap.

The Galaxy are looking to put their multiple years of futility behind them. Coach Bruce Arena, a name familiar to any American soccer fan, is leading the renovations. And on paper they look much improved. Dema Kovalenko has been brought in to bring some brutality to the center of midfield; Todd Dunivant (left back) and Mike Magee (forward) are decent veteran options. Donovan Ricketts, Jamaican international goalkeeper, has signed on. The talismanic Donovan looks to be coming back to Los Angeles, fresh off a successful loan to Bayern Munich. Some good college picks have joined the mix, notably huge centerback Omar Gonzalez. Oh yeah, and that Beckham guy may or may not be coming back.

With so many changes, can the Galaxy actually rise up and compete this year? While they’ve suddenly become an experienced team, they’re not made up of washed-up veterans. Ok, maybe a couple. The core of their attack is all back, and the defense is almost completely new except for the lone decent defender they already had, Sean Franklin.

On paper, they look much improved. But that’s the key. On paper.

Arena’s coaching skill is well documented – he might be the best American soccer coach ever – but his last task was New York in 2006 and 2007, and he did nothing to improve that team. And he is notoriously egotistical… how well will he work with the star personalities of Donovan and (presumably) Beckham? Will Donovan even be around all season? Will the young defense be able to form a cohesive unit early on in the season? They didn’t look so hot in some of their preseason games… And will the new keeper Ricketts live up to expectations? They’re really banking on him to close the revolving door they’ve had at the keeper position.

These are, in my mind, the biggest questions facing a team that has plenty of them. And they have to answer a lot to get up into playoff contention in the West. I will say this with confidence, though – at a minimum, the Galaxy have improved enough to get off the bottom of the league. As for how much they’ve improved, we’ll have to wait and see.

No comments: