(Editorial) – The LA Galaxy are in trouble. Big trouble. There was a feeling of being stuck after their 0-0 draw over the weekend against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. With that draw, the Galaxy went 0-2-4 in the month of August. Three of those draws were at home in very winable games. With every Western Conference team above them gaining ground, things weren’t looking great. Then Monday happened.
Injuries, Transfer Rumors, No Goals : LA Galaxy Troubles Go From Bad To Worse
The Galaxy are struggling offensively. Their finishing has been poor and chemistry between the stars has not been there. Thy appeared to be turning the corner in July, but the structure of the team was a rough draft. It’s clear now the final draft has not been found yet.
Head coach Bruce Arena has continued to tinker with the lineup and the positioning of Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes, and Giovani dos Santos. Keane and Dos Santos have continually gotten in each other’s way. Dos Santos was at his best this year ironically when Keane was out injured. Arena has tried both Zardes and Dos Santos on the wings, despite their defensive deficiencies at that position.
Steven Gerrard has not been healthy this season. He also hasn’t been the same player he was a few years ago. The 36-year-old hasn’t been able to be the box-to-box midfielder the Galaxy were hoping for. As a result, the Galaxy haven’t been able to run their patented 4-4-2 formation with him and Nigel de Jong in the middle.
This has forced Arena to experiment with both a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3; this allows Gerrard to play in either an advanced midfield or deep-lying play maker role. The three man midfield proved problematic for the Galaxy’s roster with a lack of width and so much space between them and either the front or back line. The 4-2-3-1 forced one or both of Dos Santos and Zardes into an unnatural position, stalling the attack.
Arena has yet to find a formation or game plan in which Keane, Dos Santos, Zardes, and Gerrard are all effective.
Keane and Dos Santos still can’t play well together for a long stretch even though they’ve had a year to figure it out. The team is playing poorly when they normally turn it on. The ‘it’s the Galaxy, Bruce will figure it out’ and ‘they’ll flip the switch‘ trump cards don’t seem playable here. This eerily mirrors last season’s ending. But wait, there’s more.
More Bad News: Key Injuries
In a way, this could simplify decisions for Arena in choosing a formation and where to play Keane and Dos Santos sans Zardes. Still, the Galaxy are a better team with Zardes even if he’s on the wing. He’s made huge strides in 2016. If he’s out for 2016, this is a huge dent to LA’s MLS Cup hopes.
Gerrard and Jelle Van Damme both exited Saturday’s match in the first half. Gerrard left with a reported hamstring issue. It’s unclear how severe it is or he’ll be unavailable this weekend. Van Damme however has an MCL sprain and will be out 2-3 weeks. The Belgian international is a potential Defender of the Year candidate. He’s been the best defender for the Galaxy this year. On a per game basis, he could be as big a loss as Zardes. But wait, there’s more.
Nigel de Jong To Galatasaray S.K. Rumors
Rumors began swirling Monday afternoon about the Galaxy potentially shopping De Jong to Turkish powerhouse Galatasaray S.K. The Turkish transfer window ends this Thursday, so the club does need to move quickly to get the deal done in time. Taylor Twellman confirmed the rumor, and Twellman is rarely wrong on these stories.
Here’s what makes this interesting: De Jong reportedly has a clause in contract that if he plays at least 23 of the 34 regular season games, he automatically gets a multi-million dollar extension for 2017. He has appeared in 18 MLS games this season. If he plays in five of the remaining eight games, he’s automatically a DP next year.
While De Jong has been great for the Galaxy defense this year (dangerous tackles aside), he isn’t a DP caliber player, especially for the Galaxy. He doesn’t quit have the name recognition to sell tickets and merchandise. Defensive midfield also isn’t a position that warrants using a DP slot under the current salary structure.
He’s a TAM level international, no more.
This move would get the Galaxy out of that clause in De Jong’s contract. They also signed him on a free transfer, so they’d be making a profit selling him no matter what.
The timing of this is unusual though. It’s late in the season and the Galaxy are trying to make a push for the playoffs and MLS Cup. If they really didn’t want to make him a DP in 2017, Arena could leave him out of the lineup for a few games. They could also sell him in January and still make money on him. Unless Galatasary are offering some large figures (and they are restricted financially right now), this doesn’t make sense to me.
With Van Damme out, the defense is already weakened. The clear replacement for De Jong’s role would be Jeff Larentowicz, but he’s a lesser player to De Jong.
With Gerrard out, that two man holding midfield spot in a 4-2-3-1 will be filled by a combination of Larentowicz, Baggio Husidic, and Mike Magee. That isn’t encouraging This team is already falling apart everywhere else. The second best defense in the league doesn’t need to lose the second biggest piece to their defensive spine.
Transferring De Jong would be a move purely to benefit the 2017 season. It might also be the even that dooms the Galaxy for 2016.