(Editorial) – Midfielder and Designated Player Steven Gerrard has returned to England to treatment of a hand string injury. He will be unavailable for today’s match against the Houston Dynamo. This situation is a bit confusing. What does this mean for him and the LA Galaxy as the season comes to a close? Let’s break it down.
Steven Gerrard Hamstring Injury And Travel Help LA Galaxy
When he’s been healthy and playing regularly, Gerrard has been okay. Fine. He’s tied for sixth in assists this year with 11. That’s good enough for 0.66 A/90 minutes, the best of any MLS player with eight nor more assists. That said, he hasn’t been healthy. And at no point this year has he been a quality box-to-box midfielder for more than a game or two. He has had good stretches as a deep lying play maker and distributor. This is demonstrated by his assist numbers.
While Gerrard has sold jerseys, tickets, and brought in some marketability, he hasn’t lived up on the field. He hasn’t been worth the multi-million DP contract. His lack of mobility has limited Bruce Arena‘s ability to play his 4-4-2 formation. Being force to play a 4-2-3-1 to accommodate Gerrard has complicated matters in the front of the attack.
Arena has been between a rock and a hard place when Gerrard is available. He can’t bench a big name DP. But playing the 36-year-old has been a liability a lot of the time. He isn’t solid enough on the defensive side of the ball, forcing Arena to play a defensive midfielder next to him. With Nigel de Jong leaving the club, it’s pretty much Gerrard and Jeff Larentowicz or bust. That’s not encouraging.
Recently, Sebastian Lletget has gotten time as a central midfielder and hasn’t looked too bad. He’s able to play on both sides of the ball and get into the attack quicker than Gerrard (kind of like 2014 Marcelo Sarvas).
With Gerrard potentially out for the rest of the season, Arena will not have to account for him in his lineup, formation, and tactics. This will allow the Galaxy to play in their 4-4-2 or in a more modular 4-2-3-1. Giovani dos Santos could play as a No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1, rather than Gerrard at times. Lletget can get up and down the field, and play on both sides of the ball.
Gerrard’s absence will not solve all the Galaxy’s problem. There’s still the issues in the attack with Dos Santos and Robbie Keane lacking chemistry. The defense has been very imperfect of late. The team might also relax: because they don’t have one of their veteran DPs, they probably won’t be heavy favorites in the playoffs. With less expectation, they could loosen up and play free.
It will take pressure off Arena to play him and open the team up for some more Tiki Taco like offense. At this point, a jolt like that might be the only thing that can will this team to an MLS Cup.