Editorial (November 29, 2017) – Major League Soccer never truly has down time. It’s why I love it and why it drives most fans crazy. This week is a buzz with most teams announcing major roster decisions and moves. The LA Galaxy roster decisions indicate a major shake up for the club going into 2018. Let’s break it down.
Reactions To The LA Galaxy Roster Decisions Going Into 2017 Off-Season
As previously announced, the Galaxy chose not to exercise contract options on thirteen players. Eight were already under contract for 2018 and five more had their options picked up. Ashley Cole and Baggio Husidic are out of contract. Robbie Rogers has retired. With that, the Galaxy have 13 of 30 MLS roster spots filled for 2018. Let’s look at each decision player-by-player.
Reactions to the players who didn’t get their options picked up:
The Goalkeepers: The Galaxy chose to decline options on all three of their keepers, Brian Rowe, Jon Kempin, and Clement Diop. As I’ve written about in the past, all three of them have their own issues. None of them showed potential to be an above average (let alone elite) starting goalkeeper in MLS. Down the stretch, they were essentially battling for the rights to be the backup in 2018.
I’m a bit surprised they didn’t retain at least one of them. I would have kept one of Rowe or Kempin. The Galaxy might find a way to bring one back for depth. They’ll look for replacements in the coming weeks and winter transfer window.
The Right Backs: None of Bradley Diallo, Pele van Anholt, and Nathan Smith got picked up. The last two shouldn’t come as a surprise. Van Anholt seemed like a great replacement for Robbie Rogers, but he tore his ACL. He was only signed in the summer for 18 months. His rehab could take him through half of next season or longer and then it will take him another year to get back to his pre-injury level. One has to feel for him, but he had no value to the Galaxy for the length of his contract.
Nathan Smith just wasn’t cut out for MLS. Head Coach Sigi Schmid doesn’t care about the academy initiative the rest of the Front Office had before he got there. He’s cutting bait with the Homegrowns he doesn’t have faith in. I’m surprised Diallo wasn’t retained if for no other reason that the Galaxy now have no outside backs (pending what happens with Ashley Cole). Diallo had some nice moments. He can play at center back in a pinch. It seems like he was worth keeping as a back up right back if nothing else. We’ll see if the club tries to bring him back in some way. Diallo does deserve at least an opportunity to start in USL.
Jermaine Jones: Jermaine Jones had a guaranteed compensation of $722,500.20 in 2017. He just turned 36-years-old. Many (including myself) didn’t like this signing from the start. It was too much money for a guy who’s too old and can’t take on the responsibilities the club would want of him. He’s been a well-documented locker room hot mess. He did get more minutes under Sigi. The club might still want to bring him back, but with a massive pay cut (no more than $250,000 if you ask me). Let another MLS/German club be desperate enough to take a flyer on him at his current salary. I personally wouldn’t bring him back but if he can be productive under the new regime, a one year deal for about $100,000 doesn’t sound so bad.
Rafael Garcia: It’s an accomplishment that this didn’t happen to Rafael Garcia three years ago. Garcia’s a good training ground body and fill in at holding midfield if you’ve got a midweek Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game. That’s about it. If you’re going to have someone play that role, might as well be a younger guy with potential.
The Attacking Homegrowns: For years, the Galaxy talked about wanting to get value out of their academy players: Help them transition into the first team or develop them to the point where they become movable assets. Jack McBean, the Villarreal’s Jose and Jaime, and Raul Mendiola have not been retained, so so much for that.
None of the kids performed well under Curt Onalfo for more than a week or two. Jaime and Mendiola weren’t given as much of a chance this year, but McBean and Jose have had years and multiple opportunities to seize regular playing time. The kids just didn’t get it done and Sigi has been tasked with winning, not developing every academy player who has one good year in the USL.
Someone will take a flyer on McBean and Jose. They just need a chance to play regularly under a coach who believes them and has the support of management. I could see them finding homes on MLS teams with tempered expectations in 2018 or being very good editions at the USL level. Mendiola has potential, but only played 36 minutes in 2017. The future is a bit more hazy for him and Jaime due to a smaller data size.
Players who got their option picked Up:
Other than Ariel Lassiter, this list is straight forward. Daniel Steres and Dave Romney showed enough to be brought back to try and become good starting caliber MLS center backs. They had a nice partnership at times in 2017. I don’t think the Galaxy are winning an MLS Cup with both of them starting at center back together, but one of them could grow into a starting role on an elite team.
Emmanual Boateng was good again this year and absolutely worth bringing back for $115,000. Bradford Jamieson IV had a good run to end the year and seems to be a Sigi guy. I always felt like he had the most potential at the MLS level of the Homegrown forwards. Given all the other cuts that were made, one would think Ariel Lassiter would be gone as well. We’ll have to see what the coaching staff has played for him next year.
The future for Cole and Husidic:
Ashley Cole and Baggio Husidic are both out of contract. Cole was an ageless wonder in 2017. Husidic has been a decent bench player for the last several years. The two made $377,625 and $175,000 this year, respectively. They’re 36 and 30-years-old. I imagine the Galaxy want to bring both players back this year. Cole has said he definitely wants to come back. Early reports are that Husidic believes he’ll be back. It will just take some negotiation and a lower salary to make this happen for both players.
First off, the Galaxy will look to re-sign Cole, Husidic, and possibly Jones at lower salaries. After that comes the MLS Expansion Draft, where Los Angeles FC is getting five players. The Galaxy will get to protect 11 players and they only have 13 under contract, so they probably won’t lose anyone there.
After that, comes free agency and the Re-Entry Drafts. The Galaxy have the first overall picks in both Stage One and Stage Two of the Re-Entry Draft. I expect they’ll be busy there, looking for defensive depth and possibly a goalkeeper or two. After that, it’s free agency and trades to build for 2018.
As Brian Dunseth lamented earlier this week, it’s spectacularly remarkable how quickly years of academy player development crashed out after one season. The Galaxy have just three academy players currently under contract: Gyasi Zardes, Hugo Arellano, and Bradford Jamieson IV. Two of those guys were essentially in their first year with the first team full time. The other is a striker who might be converting to right back. The Galaxy cut so many guys who weren’t even making that much money, it’s hard to see them coming back because there’s no wiggle room with their salary. I’ve written before about how the Galaxy botched the development of this generation of Homegrowns.
Lastly, the Galaxy didn’t cut a whole lot of cap space. If Jones et al do return for less money, that will help. But again, most of the dead weight they cut was league minimum dead weight, certainly under $100,000. They’ve got three DPs already. The Galaxy might be hoping that MLS infuses more TAM for 2018 to give them the flexibility they need to get a noteworthy international striker and fill their other needs.