Editorial (February 20, 2017) – As the LA Galaxy progress through the end of their preseason, they could be without two de facto starters come opening weekend. Forward Gyasi Zardes and right back Robbie Rogers are recovering from injuries. This leaves Head Coach Curt Onalfo with some holes to fill.
LA Galaxy Injuries: Zardes And Rogers Leave Holes In Starting XI
Zardes’s injury goes back to last season. He had foot surgery last August that sidelined him for the remainder of the 2016 campaign. Reports were that he got back to light working out during the playoffs. He’s been involved in the preseason and was called into the U.S. Men’s National Team January Camp. The striker suffered a minor knee injury during camp though and had surgery for that. He hasn’t played in any friendlies in 2017, for club or country. Indications are that he won’t be gone long. Still, it’s uncertain when he’ll return.
Robbie Rogers played in the 2016 MLS Cup playoffs, but has had three surgeries in the last two seasons. This year, he hasn’t been involved in the team’s preseason. He had ankle surgery last week that has him out for the start of the MLS season. He also is reportedly having nerve issues and loss of feeling in his dominant left foot. That’s a threat to his career long term, unlike an ankle surgery.
Enter No. 9 Jack McBean and defensive midfielder converted right back Rafa Garcia. McBean spent last season with LA Galaxy II, lighting it up, before going out on loan to Coventry City FC of League One. With the departure of Alan Gordon in the off-season, he was set to rejoin the first team as the No. 9 striker.
While he was primarily going to play a back up role to Zardes, it looks like he could be thrown into the starting lineup early on. He’s played in MLS in the past, signing as a Homegrown when he was just 16-years-old. At 22-years-old, he might not be ready to start and kill it for an MLS playoff team.
That said, this could be an excellent growth opportunity that yields results later on in the season. Look for McBean to be more of an aerial threat than Zardes. He’ll learn to link up with Giovani dos Santos and create space for others inside the box. Sebastian Lletget and Jermaine Jones might have to step up offensively.
The back line is another matter. LA traded away A.J. DeLaGarza in the off-season. Center Back Leonardo also departed the club for the Houston Dynamo. The Galaxy defensive depth went from a position of strength to a position of weakness. With Rogers injured, there’s no immediate defender on the roster with MLS experience. Just Dave Romney with 14 caps.
With limited options, Onalfo has started back up defensive midfielder Rafael Garcia at right back. Garcia has 27 caps and 850 minutes in MLS since being drafted in 2012. He’s a hard working defensive midfielder. He has played the occasional game at right back though, in a few CONCACAF Champions League group games as well as U.S. Open Cup.
He’s never played as a right back for long stretches nor as a starter. This is new to him and to his teammates. From an effort and preparation stand point, he’s up to the challenge. That said, it’s going to take him time to get the hang of things.
Until he does or Rogers comes back, he’s going to be a point of weakness in the defense. He’s also never been a starter for this team, even at his natural position. There’s a chance this ends up being a failed experiment in the long run (not to mention make the front office look bad for the DeLaGarza trade). If nothing else, he’s always been a hard worker. And he’s not going to bomb forward, so that will allow his wing partner to contribute to the attack.
Still, for the Galaxy to succeed in 2017, they’re going to need Zardes and Rogers back sooner rather than later.