by Luis Baron
The 2017 MLS season is upon us and the Galaxy are ready to begin their long journey towards the playoffs and MLS Cup.
After a turbulent offseason, which saw many veterans retire, fan favorites traded, fresh new talent being signed and young talent called up to the senior team, the Galaxy roster is now set for what should be a roller coaster season. However, not everything has gone according to plan and the season has yet to start. Let’s break down this year’s Galaxy team.
Let’s begin with the team’s depth. There isn’t any. Unlike last year’s team that had a solid bench filled with players that could start on other teams around the league, this year’s bench is filled with young players unproven at the MLS level. Any sort of injury to a starter would handicap the team immensely. Unfortunately, this has already happened and the effects are showing. The team will start the season without Gyasi Zardes, who hasn’t played with the Galaxy since last August, Robbie Rogers, who is out for an undisclosed amount of time, and Ashley Cole, all of whom are injured.
The backline was the Galaxy’s biggest strength last season. They allowed the 2nd fewest goals in 2016 behind only Colorado. The same starting back 4 would return this season making it the less of a focal pointin the offseason. However, with 2 of those 4 injured to start the season, the defense is now the weakest part of this Galaxy squad. Rafael Garcia will start the season at right back, a position he is still learning after playing defensive mid for most of his career. Dave Romney will fill in for Cole at left back but he doesn’t have too much experience at this level. This makes Jelle van Damme and Daniel Steres that much more important this season. Daniel Steres will have to have a better season than he did last year and Van Damme needs to repeat his MVP-like performance of last year for the Galaxy to stay within striking distance in any given game. Brian Rowe returns as goalie and will be the last line of defense. With such an inexperienced and untested backline, he will have plenty of action this season and will be called upon to come up with big saves more often.
Going into the offseason, the midfield was the weakest part of the team, but after signing Jermaine Jones, Romain Alessandrini, and Joao Pedro, the midfield is now the strongest part with the most depth. Alessandrini will provide some much needed spark in the offense, while Joao Pedro will act as the enforcer and holder in the back. Jermaine Jones can do both as the box to box man. The final starting midfielder is Sebastian Lletget who will play out wide and is expected to have a superb season. Should any of these guys go down, Ema Boateng, Baggio Husidic, and Raul Mendiola are capable of picking up the slack. With the exception of Jones, all the midfielders are young and athletic.
It’s a sharp contrast to what we had last season and expect a lot more quickness moving up and down the pitch.
Up front, Giovanni dos Santos will be expected to continue where he left off last season. With Robbie Keane no longer on the team and Gyasi Zardes out with injury, Gio will be the primary target going forward. He will need to prove this season that he is the go-to guy for goals and might bear the burden of having to carry the team on his back when the big moments arise. Ariel Lassiter and Jack Mcbean will finally get their shots with the first team. However, with so little experience at this level, expectations should be down to a minimum. 5-7 goals for either one should be considered a success and would take some of the pressure off Gio.
At the end of the day, the one guy who is responsible for how the team performs is head coach Curt Onalfo. His hiring was lackluster at best, and many fans are skeptical about how the team may perform with him at the helm. His 2 previous stints as an MLS head coach were mediocre at best and he was unable to win a championship in USL as a head coach for Galaxy II. Sadly, Onalfo is already on the hot seat with many fans who will be looking for any reason to criticize him and ask for his firing. The front office however, seems to have all the confidence in the world in Onalfo and are “all in” for the foreseeable future. Onalfo is going to need to have a heck of a season to win the fans over. He certainly has his work cut out for him as the lack of depth and a list of injuries are already working against him. Fans will need to be patient before they can truly judge his and the team’s performance.
The Galaxy and it’s fans are going to have a very turbulent roller coaster type ride this season. It will surely have it’s highs and lows.
The key word this season will be patience, which unfortunately, fans have very little of as it is. The MLS season is 7 months long and is more of a marathon rather than a sprint. Starting off slow doesn’t hurt the Galaxy, who will need some time to regain some of their injured starters. So what should we expect this team to do this year? It may be very difficult to accept, that 2017 is a rebuilding year and accepting that and adjusting expectations is the first step. Yes, the Galaxy are the premier team of the league, but every so often, a team overhaul is needed. For the Galaxy, that time is now. However, that’s not to say that the Galaxy are doomed to fail this season. When healthy, the Galaxy have the talent to compete against any team in the league. If all cylinders are firing come August, and if the injury bug decides to take a vacation, the Galaxy may surprise many of us. If the last couple MLS seasons have showed us anything, it’s that peaking at the right time is vital to winning a championship. Let’s hope the Galaxy can get their act together before it’s too late.