Top Stories

SBI MLS Season Preview: LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy Collage


It’s good to be king.

The LA Galaxy, fresh off of their third MLS Cup Championship in four years, enjoyed the sort of off-season pageantry most clubs can only dream of. They went to the White House and met the President – again. They toured Europe, and were feted by foreign heads of state. Their captain was named MLS MVP. Their retiring legend had the league’s trophy named after him. Their coach received the Werner Fricker Award for career excellence.

And oh, by the way, they signed a certain highly-regarded Liverpudlian midfielder to a DP contract that should keep Galaxy ticket sales and jersey sales in the stratosphere compared to any other MLS club not named the Sounders for years to come.

Yet even the mighty Galaxy have question marks heading into the 2015 season.

The loss of Landon Donovan leaves a gaping hole in the Galaxy midfield, and the Galaxy scoring sheet. Donovan scored 13 goals in all competitions last year and added twenty assists. Steven Gerrard will not join the team until mid-July, leaving an awful lot of offense to be found among a small group of veteran midfielders and a rookie or two. It remains to be seen if Stefan Ishizaki, Baggio Husidic, and Juninho, or perhaps academy product Bradford Jamieson IV, are up to the task.

That said, the Galaxy have an embarrassment of riches on the front and back lines, and boast many players versatile enough to slot into the midfield while the Champs await the arrival of Sir Steven.

The bigger question then is how will the Galaxy deal with the threat of complacency? How many times can you climb the same mountain before it gets old? Head coach Bruce Arena has a veteran squad, a roster packed with known quantities, but it remains to be seen if the Galaxy can muster the magic once again.

Here is a closer look at the 2015 LA Galaxy:


2014 Finish: (3rd in Western Conference), won MLS Cup Championship

KEY ACQUISITIONS: Steven Gerrard, Edson Buddle

KEY LOSSES: Landon Donovan, Marcelo Sarvas

NEWCOMER TO WATCH: Steven Gerrard. In his time with Liverpool and the England National Team, Steven Gerrard was considered a creative force of nature, an instinctive playmaker with fearsome scoring capability and a relentless willingness to track back and play midfield destroyer. He was, in short, the very heart of English soccer. Now however, at 34 years old, many wonder if the England legend has enough left in his legs to provide the Galaxy with spark they will need to deal with the loss of Landon the Legend.

PRESSURE IS ON: Gyasi Zardes. While strike partner Robbie Keane has cemented himself as both captain, MVP, and goal scoring master, Zardes still has it all to play for, as he attempts to turn a successful – if streaky – 2014 campaign into true stardom. Zardes’ time as “promising youngster” is over. Not only will Zardes be expected to fill Donovan’s scoring boots, but a regular spot on the U.S. Men’s National Team roster awaits his success.


After three championships in four years, the Galaxy now find themselves in the “Dynasty” conversation. Anything less than an MLS Cup Trophy is considered failure. And yet, the greater issue in Carson may be how to motivate the players to win it all again.

“Step one is having your team ready for the opening game,” said head coach Bruce Arena after a training session in Carson. “Moving forward, not worrying about the MLS Cup or the Supporter’s Shield in the beginning of the year. We’re worried about getting our team good enough to position ourselves for those types of accomplishments, not about the accomplishments themselves.”

This puts ever-increasing pressure Arena, who can spare little time to develop younger players amid the champions-or-bust environment in Carson.

Gyasi Zardes can no longer enjoy the “up-and-comer” spot he has filled in the Galaxy roster for the past three years. That role will now go to Bradford Jamieson IV. The Galaxy Academy product is still only 18, but has already featured in the Under-17 and now Under-20 national teams, and has started three times for the senior team during the current pre-season. Like Donovan (and Zardes, for that matter), Jamieson is fleet of foot and can play both an outside midfield attacking role as well as pure striker. Unlike Donovan or Zardes, however, Jamieson has yet to score a goal in the MLS.

The third leading goal scorer on the Galaxy last season was Donovan, and the fourth was Marcelo Sarvas. Both are gone now, and the question of who will pick up the slack behind Robbie Keane and Zardes remains open.

For his part, Arena remains unperturbed at the thought.

“How many teams around the world do you feel good about saying you’ve got two proven scorers,” Arena asked. “(Stefan) Ishizaki can score goals, Juninho can score goals, (Alan) Gordon can score goals… (Edson) Buddle has scored over 100 goals in this league. I think we have enough people who can score goals. “

Three of the four starting midfield slots are inked in. Juninho will return his deep-lying central role, Baggio Husidic will play in the central midfield higher up, and Stefan Ishizaki will remain out wide right. This leaves the left midfield spot an open question, even after the arrival of Gerrard.  The likely choice will be Jamieson or Jose Villarreal.

An equally likely solution is that Arena will drop Zardes back into the left midfield, as he did often last season. Zardes runs as well as anyone in the MLS, and may give Arena the option of attacking width on the pitch. This move would also allow Arena to make use of his wealth of riches at the forward position.

Up top, the Galaxy are stacked. LA has the luxury of sending out MLS MVP Robbie Keane and Zardes, who scored 31 goals between them, and added 27 assists. With or without Landon Donovan as the third man in the attack, that’s a fearsome front line for MLS defenses to contend with. Backing them up will be not one but two proven goal scoring veterans, Alan Gordon and Edson Buddle, along with Academy products Jack McBean and Villarreal, both of whom have seen ample minutes with the senior team over the past several years despite being only 20 and 22, respectively.

Yet it’s the Galaxy’s defense that may be their strongest asset. Not only will the Galaxy send out veteran Omar Gonzalez, fresh off three World Cup starts, and AJ De La Garza, who started at all four back line positions last year and was many pundit’s pick for Defender of the Year, but the Galaxy return five other defenders who saw quality minutes in important games last year.

Todd Dunivant returns from season-ending groin injury last July to try to reclaim his spot as starting left back. He’ll have to unseat the remarkably resurgent Robbie Rogers, who merited attention from no less than Jurgen Klinsmann for his stellar conversion to fullback last season. The Galaxy resigned Dan Gargan, a journeyman for his entire career until multiple injuries last year thrust Gargan into the spotlight for most of the Galaxy season. The Galaxy also return Tommy Meyer and Leonardo, two veteran center backs who could possibly be a starting pairing anywhere else in the MLS – yet here in Carson, they may see time with LA Galaxy II just to stay game ready.

The goalkeeper position will remain Panamanian #1 Jaime Penedo’s cage to protect, with fourth year UCLA product Brian Rowe to back him up.

An embarrassment of riches? Perhaps. The Galaxy have always been the MLS Goliath for all the other David’s to slay, and this year will be no different. But the Galaxy did not grow much younger, and more importantly, they will have to find a way to stay motivated over forty-plus game schedule.

“Obviously, we have enough experience. We’re not a ‘one-and-done’ type of championship team. We’re a veteran team that’s always in the thick of it, and we know what it takes to stay in the thick of it,” concluded Arena.

“2014 is done and dusted. It’s done, and now we’re getting on with the business of 2015.”


Galaxy XI


  1. I too was surprised to see Sarasota go, can’t really wrap my head around that one. I also think LD is irreplaceable when his head is in the game, virtually impossible to find a better player in any MLS stadium. However, Gerrard will do very well, should net around 10 goals this year, plus 10 assists, taking every free kick within 30 yards of opposing goal. Galaxy should be difficult to beat again and remain my favorite team.

  2. I love soccer and I know MLS continues to grow, but I think the owners and players need to get a grip and realize that a strike is not in either party’s best interest. Soccer is competing against other sports and work stoppage would set both the owners and players back I think.

    • I’m sure I’m in the minority but I think the players should just take the deal. Yeah 10 years is kind of crazy but it gets your foot in the door and you can build on it next go around.

      • Not so much Jack- I agree with you in concept that simply having free agency in any form is a big big get- one that you can build on. I’d speculate that 10 years was a starting offer? I think with the above in mind, 8 years is a good place to dig in heels and build from. Let’s hope!

      • I will join your minority. The players already have more free agency than any player in any other American sports league. They can literally play for any team in any league in the world, including the NASL. The sheer number of options is staggering. The real problem for the players is that they are not good enough to be free agents.

        The rest of the world is looking at the way MLS is organized with envy. The league is competitive and sustainable for every team. The best thing the players can do is ride the upward tide of MLS and get as high a percentage of revenues plugged back into the salary cap and minimum compensation as they can muster.

        The player should also push for the kinds of facilities that the Galaxy have for all franchises, real grass surfaces, top quality sport science, nutrition, medical and support services. All of these things will extend their careers and make them more marketable for a longer period of time.

        I have no idea why they would throw away the momentum the league has generated for the sake of something they already have. Not sure what the union bosses are thinking.

  3. Pullleaze! You question Steven Gerrard’s legs when Robbie Keane is the same age, both 34, and he just won the MLS MVP? Robbie Keane though great for the Galaxy never achieved the same level of play as Steven G. in Europe. The level of play is so much higher in the EPL, that Mr. Gerrard should be just fine for a few years to come.

    • I know! He fawns over Donovan “The loss of Landon Donovan leaves a gaping hole” who is 32, and minimizes Steven Gerrard “Now however, at 34 years old, many wonder if the England legend has enough left in his legs to provide the Galaxy with spark they will need”

      Who are the many?

      We are so lucky to get Gerrard. Does anyone really believe that if you put Donovan and Gerrard on the open world football market that Landon would fetch a higher price?

      Embrace Steven and say goodbye to Landon. The king is dead. Long live the king.

      • The consensus in the UK is that Gerrard’s legs are gone. You may not like it but that’s the common belief. I think he will be able to contribute a lot in MLS however. The only concern I have is with him getting homesick, Keane left his hometown when he was a teenager, Gerrard will leave his in July at 34 years old.

      • great point about leaving home for the first time at 34!

        However, the “consensus” about his legs is not a consensus, but speculation. For the level of football played in the states, he’ll be fine. He isn’t a striker or a defender or an attacking mid anymore. Beckham was a great asset and he was no Usain Bolt.

      • Cue the re-birth of Steven Gerrard the regista – and the genesis of Jordan Henderson as the nucleus for energy in the midfield. Operating as the deepest lying midfielder in a 4-3-3 or the 4-4-2 Diamond, the captain’s legs became managed for him by the same concept that allowed the poetry of Andrea Pirlo’s football to thrive in his time at Milan, and now Juventus.

        The captain’s superb range of passing was superbly exploited in deeper positions… except that’s not all he was doing. Gerrard’s metamorphosis into a tactically disciplined retainer of the ball, and creator of attacking tempo, turned him from potential liability into a key driving force for Liverpool’s dominance in attacking football.”

      • “I will agree with the constructive criticism as far I’ve been stifled in a couple of games when players have followed me about and I’ve found it difficult to shake them off,” Gerrard told BT Sport’s Ray Stubbs afterwards. “But then people go one step further and say you’re finished, you can’t run any more, you’re done. That’s the frustrating thing. So it’s nice to remind people that although I am 34, I can still run, I can still play and I can still compete with the best”

  4. I don’t understand why they gave up Sarvas. Despite what the article says, I think they could use another player or two in the midfield. I don’t see Gordon as a full time player up top; he’s more of a spot player. Thus, I doubt we will see this projected lineup often. Stevie G has shown this season that he is still a top player. He should be beneficial the second half of this season and all of next. After that, who knows. All in all, they should contend, but it’s no shoo-in that they will win the division or the chamnpionship.

    • Contract talks did not go well. Sarvas wanted bigger money than the Galaxy could afford to give him. Bruce decided he could use the money better. As happens often in MLS, the Galaxy would have loved to keep Sarvas, but the salary cap made that difficult. Personally I think it is good for the league and for soccer in general. The focus shifts from buying championships with players to building championships with a winning culture. Bruce is the best in US Soccer at building a sustainable winning culture.

  5. Article says Villarreal has “precious few senior team appearances” but two paragraphs later says Villarreal “has seen ample minutes with the senior team over the past several years”. So which is it?

    • Face palm material for sure. It’s cool that Ives gives new bloggers an opportunity to get some experience and earn a few bucks, but the quality of a lot of the pieces lately have been sub-par, at best.

  6. there are not many reasons to panic here, the only weakness i see is gargan he just does not cut it. Aside from that small hiccup we have a solid team more than most. i smell a fourth cup and a deep run in ccl.

    • Leonardo came along during the season, if he can continue progress then you slide AJ to fullback. Gargan is certainly fine for MLS anyway.

    • Gargan doesn’t cut it?

      Did you watch the Galaxy last season? Gargan brings much needed depth, and can cross the ball much better than Rogers most of the time.

      Please sit down.


Leave a Comment