Editorial (November 6, 2017) – The LA Galaxy 2017 season has come and gone. By many metrics (wins, points per game, missing the playoffs, etc.) this was one of the worst seasons in club history, finishing 8-18-8 (32 points). They failed to miss the playoffs and finished last in MLS. While the front office was bullish on the new direction the club took this year, it all fell apart. Here’s what happened.
LA Galaxy 2017 Season In Review
Last year saw tremendous turnover for the Galaxy. Long time Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena, who won three MLS Cups with the organization, left for the United States Men’s National Team. Veterans Robbie Keane, Mike Magee, Landon Donovan, and Alan Gordon left the club. Steven Gerrard also left the organization.
Suddenly the Galaxy were down a Head Coach, GM, and had a bunch of open roster spots. Enter Peter Vagenas and Curt Onaflo, disciples of Bruce All Mighty. Unfortunately the students did not show the MLS mastery and savvy of their teacher. The club tried to embrace the youth movement. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.
Romain Alessandrini, and it’s not even close. The French International joined the club in the off-season from his hometown Olympique de Marseille. He’s probably the first International DP the Galaxy have signed that fans had to Google to figure out who he was. Given injury concerns and his poor reputation with his former club coach, his signing was very underwhelming.
Despite the lack of hype, Alessandrini won the hearts of Galaxy fans quickly, with his play and his “LA Heart” goal celebration (WordPress doesn’t really due emojies, apologies). The midfielder recorded 13 goals and 12 assists (both team leading) in 30 MLS regular season games. He put the team on his back throughout the season.
What Went Right?
Alessandrini (see above), some playing time for the young kids, the mid-season coaching change, and that’s about it. The Galaxy tried to implement a youth movement to get value out of their long-hyped academy system. Many LA Galaxy II players who never had a chance to play regularly for the first team under Bruce Arena got looks at the MLS level.
Jack McBean, Jose Villarreal, Bradley Diallo, and Bradford Jamieson IV all had some good runs of form. Others struggled, but gained experience that should serve them going forward. Unfortunately, the weren’t good. Not one academy product had a complete and impressive season, especially after Curt Onalfo was fired.
Sigi Schmid took over for Onalfo at the end of July. Some fans still have mixed feelings about how this is going to work long term. If nothing else, Schmid took control of the locker room and set standards and expectations and standards for winning. He helped stabilize the defense and gave some of the slackers a kick in the pants.
Oh, and Jon Kempin wasn’t half bad.
What Went Wrong?
Basically, everything else. The team was ravaged by injuries, with Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes starting the season out hurt. Midfielders Jermaine Jones, Sebastian Lletget, and Baggio Husidic spent extended time out of the lineup. This forced many young and inexperienced players into the lineup before they were ready, and they fell flat on their faces.
The team had a good road record earlier in the year, but fell apart as the defense struggled. Jelle Van Damme’s family situation derailed his season. Dave Romney and Daniel Steres were then forced to take over as center backs with varying success. Onalfo manifested an unnecessary goalkeeper controversy that showed what Clement Diop is and ruined Brian Rowe. Ashley Cole was the glue that help the hamper turd back line together, barely.
On the offense, the club struggled. Giovani dos Santos looked disinterested for long stretches in the season and seemed incapable of doing the spectacular regardless of his surroundings. He hasn’t scored a goal since May 27th. The Galaxy’s TAM forward and only recently successful Homegrown, Gyasi Zardes scored just two goals all year and spend the end of the season at right back purely out of the need to plug a hole due to poor roster construction and injuries.
Oh, and the club signed Jonathan dos Santos (Gio’s brother) even though they had a bunch of midfielders and needed a striker.
What They Need To Do To Contend In 2018:
Well, they’re already headed in the right direction. Schmid has taken over player personnel from the disaster that was Vagenas as General Manager. It’s unclear if this is just a title switch for the sake of optics. In any case, Sigi has a say in who they’re keeping, cutting, and signing. A good chunk of this roster won’t be back next year. They’ll have a top pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, which should land them a Generation Adidas player who can play right away.
If they can get healthy, cut some dead weight, and make the right moves, they’ll be competitive in 2018. I still have some concern about where they have lots of money tied up. Their two highest players are the Dos Santos brothers, and that gives them collectively a lot of leverage. Gio was not good this year. Jonthan was still getting used to the league. He could be good, was still signed at a position where the Galaxy have strength.
The club needs a goalkeeper, right back, possibly a left back (should Ashley Cole leave), and a striker. The best strikers in MLS are usually DPs or TAM players. They’ve got all three DP spots locked up and they probably have most if not all of their International Slots spoken for for 2018.
Alessandrini is the cheapest and easiest DP to move, should they need to do so to get an elite striker. I can’t see them being able to ship out one Dos Santos, without selling both (probably to the same club). That’ll be difficult. Alessandrini is the cheapest and most productive. Would that honestly be a good move?
We’ll have to see what happens in the coming months. There’s lots to do, but at the least the Galaxy now have the winningest coach in MLS history in the war room to help make decisions.