Editorial (November 18, 2016) – It’s been a busy week for the LA Galaxy. Designated Players Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane announced they will be leaving the club. So will associate head coach Dave Sarachan. With the U.S. Men’s National Team reeling, Bruce Arena could also leave the Galaxy. LA has another problem. They’ve got a bunch of old players with some mid-level contracts. They need to decide what to do with them. Here’s the situation:
LA Galaxy Veterans: What To Do With The Players Over 30
Ashley Cole (35, $300,000), Landon Donovan (34, $152,500), Alan Gordon (35, $170,000), Dan Kennedy (34, $180,000), Jeff Larentowicz (33, $175,000), Mike Magee (32, $250,000), and Jelle Van Damme (33, $425,000).
It should be noted that the Galaxy did use TAM for part of Van Damme’s contract. Donovan’s contract was also pro-rated for the eight regular season games he would be available for after signing. At that rate, he would have been paid $457,000, the max salary for a non-DP player in MLS.
That’s a lot of money (over $1.65 million) and a lot of miles for seven guys. What then should the Galaxy do with each of these players? Let’s break it down.
The Cole signing got a lot of stick from pundits and fans, but Cole was honestly one of the best defenders on the team this year. He was smart enough to conserve his energy for when it was a good idea to get into the attack. Other than a game against Sporting KC where he got two yellow cards in a matter of minutes, he made smart decisions.
That said, $300,000 made him one of the most expensive full backs in MLS. That’s not a position where it makes sense to to spend under the current salary cap rules. Unless you’re getting the best full back in the league, then maybe. Cole started 25 games this year. He might retire purely out of his age. He also got a good pay out from AS Roma terminating his contract. That allowed him to sign with the Galaxy for ‘cheap.’
The Galaxy might have to fork up more money for him to keep him in 2017. Plus, he’s a redundancy. A.J. DeLaGarza collected dust on the bench in 2016. He’s cheaper, younger, and on the day can be just as good. Move Robbie Rogers over and put DeLaGarza in at left back. The Galaxy should not retain Cole unless he’s willing to come back for less money. I wouldn’t sign him for more than $200,000 if that.
The LegenD didn’t look too bad in his 2016 comeback. He got back to fitness pretty quick for taking a year and a half off from professional soccer. We saw flashes of the old Donovan. He was the best attacker at times for the team, with Giovanni dos Santos on the field.
That said, this depends on if Donovan wants to comeback. His pro-rated deal had him at a non-DP salary. In theory, that means he’d take a non-DP contract for a full 2017 season. If he wants to come back and the Galaxy can get him to a non-DP (possible low TAM) contract, I say go for it.
He can be a wide player for the club. He can start or come of the bench. Plus he can help develop the young attackers on the team like he did with Gyasi Zardes. That’s something the Galaxy need to do.
Larentowicz might have the most interesting situation. He’s the only pure holding midfielder on the roster. The Galaxy clearly need a defensive midfielder, but maybe not as a regular starter. Larentowicz probably isn’t good enough to start in 2017, especially if a DP central midfielder is signed. The Galaxy aren’t going to sign a DP holding mid though.
He’s also at the point in his career where he’ll accept not being a starter. He is eligible for free agency, which could complicate things.
That said, Larentowicz probably isn’t worth $175,000 a year. He’s still valuable enough that some team in MLS will be willing to pay more than market value for him. I think the Galaxy should keep him, but I would offer him a lower salary, $150,000 at the most. This one is up in the air like Donovan.
The rest of the LA Galaxy veterans on this list have much easier and potentially obvious decisions.
Van Damme was a Defender of the Year nominee. One could argue he was the most valuable player for the Galaxy in 2016. The rumblings are that he’s already under contract for 2017. That said, the Belgian deserves a pay raise. I don’t see him demanding or the Galaxy offering him a DP contract. That said, a higher level TAM contract is deserves and fair.
Gordon and Magee a probably gone from the team. They aren’t worth their current salaries. Gordon started 7 games, playing in 22, and scoring 3 goals. Injuries troubled him all year. The Galaxy have had Jack McBean waiting in the wings as their No. 9 of the future for years. It’s time to give the kid a run out for real. If Gordon were willing to take a serious pay cut (50% or so), I could see having him around as a safety valve and to teach McBean.
That said, Gordon could do that as an assistant coach if he wanted to stay with the organization. Still, Gordon’s eligible for free agency, and someone out there will probably be willing to pay him based on his stoppage time mythos. I see him with a different MLS team next year.
Magee put out a heartfelt post on Instagram this week that seems like a ‘I’m not coming back’ post. There’s no official word from either party nor rumors circulating. Magee played mostly a bench role this season, but still managed 6 goals and 4 assists. I could see him retiring. He might give it a go elsewhere as a free agent. If he is playing in MLS next year, it probably won’t be with the Galaxy. And it won’t be for $250,000.
Lastly, Dan Kennedy. No, just no. Regardless of your opinions of Brian Rowe, he’s better, cheaper, and younger than Kennedy. The Galaxy aren’t paying a back up goalie a six figure salary. I’m not sure where Kennedy goes though. He’s older and hasn’t been healthy. There really isn’t an MLS team he could go to and unseat the current starter. He might have to jump down to the NASL or USL. Or retire.