Wearing the captain’s armband before his red card was Zlatan Ibrahimović. The former Manchester United striker signed with the Galaxy on March 23 — and already wearing the armband.
Zlatan has started seven out of his 10 appearances so far for the Galaxy this season. Meanwhile, there are players on the Galaxy’s roster like Emmanuel Boateng, Ashley Cole and Giovani Dos Santos that have been with the club for more than two seasons.
The Importance of Having Longer-Tenured Players Wear the Captain’s Armband
In Dos Santos’ case, he has been with the Galaxy since 2015.
There is no doubt that Zlatan is a megastar in MLS. His name is known all over the world due to stints with Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Barcelona.
However, the captain’s armband should mean something more. What the Galaxy did by giving Zlatan the armband over more Galaxy-experienced players was ignore the others that have given years of fight for the club.
Zlatan is a natural born leader, but his arrival to Los Angeles hasn’t provided the spark that Sigi Schmid and company expected. In fact, when Zlatan earned his suspension due to a red card against Minnesota United FC, the Galaxy won their match against the San Jose Earthquakes without him.
Zlatan’s two goals couldn’t capture victory over FC Dallas. The striker hardly had a role in the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers last weekend.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned from a one-game ban to score twice, but it wasn't enough for LA Galaxy. pic.twitter.com/MHKVN8R5Uj
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 31, 2018
Luckily, the Galaxy learned from the captain’s armband placement. In recent matches against FC Dallas and Portland, it went to Ashley Cole. The 37-year-old left back has featured for the Galaxy 12 times this season, starting 11 matches.
Cole has been with the club since 2016, starting 65 out of 67 appearances matches.
The captain’s armband should be a meaningful symbol of leadership for a player. Look at Columbus Crew SC and all the detail that went into naming Wil Trapp the next captain.
Trapp has been with the Crew, his hometown club, since 2013. Trapp signed as a Homegrown player and was eventually named the captain before the 2017 season.
“We are here to guide them, but we want to give a lot of ownership to the players,” Berhalter said. “As I look around and look at these guys, they are experienced. They’ve been in this league long enough, they know what this league is about and I think they have a clear direction of where they want to go.”
Trapp has been a staple in the successes of Columbus since his addition to the senior team. Out of 139 appearances, Trapp started 136 matches.
Having a local player wearing the captain’s armband for his local team — in his city — speaks volumes to a fan base.
— Columbus Crew SC (@ColumbusCrewSC) March 28, 2018
Certain NWSL clubs have a history of just handing out the armband as well.
This past off-season, Carli Lloyd requested a trade to Sky Blue FC. After a massive three-way trade between Sky Blue FC, Chicago Red Stars, and Houston Dash, Lloyd landed in New Jersey.
Lloyd has worn the captain’s armband since the start of the season.
Lloyd has been a staple of U.S. Soccer for a long time now. She was notably the two-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year and led the United States to their third FIFA Women’s World Cup title in 2015.
However, her club play has dwindled in the last two seasons. Her inclusion on the Sky Blue FC roster wasn’t a surprise, but her earning the armband over longtime club players like Domi Richardson, Sarah Killion, and Eric Skroski has to draw some sort of line.
However, the NWSL has always placed a high importance and regard to U.S. Women’s National Team players.
Meanwhile, Kealia Ohai has spent her entire career with the Houston Dash. Ohai has worn the captain’s armband since the 2016 season.
At that point, Ohai had two seasons with Houston under her belt.
The captain’s armband isn’t just an article of clothing for gameday. Only one person on each team gets the honor of wearing the armband. Clubs should follow in the footsteps of the Houston Dash and Crew SC.
Before, the coaches for Houston and Columbus– Berhalter and former Dash head coach Randy Waldrum — went into detailed thought getting their players ready for the honor.
The captain’s armband isn’t something that should just be thrown around to the player who has the biggest, more popular name.
— Sky Blue FC (@SkyBlueFC) May 22, 2018