Whoever said “you can’t go home again” never met Dan Kennedy.
Lost amid the high profile signings of multiple European stars, the LA Galaxy quietly added the veteran goalkeeper to their roster this offseason. Kennedy spent seven seasons between the pipes at the StubHub Center, walked it’s subterranean halls, practiced on it’s extensive pitches.
Only he didn’t wear the all white kit of the LA Galaxy; instead, he plied his wares in the rojiblanco strip of cross-hallway rivals Chivas USA, the now-defunct decade-long experiment abandoned by the MLS at the end of the 2014 season.
En route to becoming the all-time most capped player in the history of Chivas USA, Kennedy had three seasons with 100-plus saves (and a fourth with 93). Kennedy was the team MVP for three consecutive seasons, and accepted the captain’s armband for the final two. While Chivas USA found little success on the pitch, and Kennedy spent most of his career watching the playoffs from his sofa, still, people noticed.
Over the years, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena often remarked upon the strong play of Kennedy – usually after his team plastered the Chivas goal with shots. Rumors often floated that Kennedy was being targeted by the Galaxy, but no transfer ever materialized.
Kennedy, a Southern California native, was dealt to FC Dallas after the breakup of Chivas USA. But his starting role evaporated to young prospect Jesse Gonzalez, and by the end of the season, Kennedy was available. Meanwhile, back in California, the LA Galaxy suffered a season ending collapse that promised a heavy overhaul of the roster. Kennedy was the first move the Galaxy made.
“It’s surreal,” said Kennedy after a recent Galaxy practice. “This is a move that I pushed for on a couple different occasions, and certainly once Chivas shut down, this is the move I really wanted to make happen. But as players, a lot of times these things are out of your hands.”
Kennedy will by no means be alone as a new face in the Galaxy lineup. In their first match last Wednesday against Santos Laguna, the Galaxy started five new players for the first time ever, two of them on the rebuilt Galaxy back line. Defenders Jelle Van Damme and Ashley Cole were brought in from Europe over the winter. In addition, the Galaxy added Dutch holding midfielder Nigel De Jong. All three players have international experience, and along with Kennedy, all are over the age of thirty. The Galaxy hope adding veterans to the defense will shore up a back line that faltered mightily in the final months of 2015.
“I come to work every day with a smile on my face,” said Kennedy when asked about playing with the star power in front of him. “It’s special getting to work with so many guys who have World Cup experience, and played for some of the biggest teams and leagues in the world. The influences in the locker room are really fun, just getting to pick their brains about the experiences they’ve had.
“But once we step on the field, it’s just about doing your job. Whether it’s on the training pitch or on the game pitch, you don’t really think about who’s who. You’re just trying to get the best result.”
It is difficult to say exactly what Kennedy’s biggest challenge will be – blocking shots, or helping to organize a back six, only two of whom have ever played together before.
“These guys in front of me, they’re all veterans. They all know how important communication is” Kennedy said. “But in terms of organizing, I’m in a position that sees the whole field. Every week we go through a process to try to prepare for the week ahead. It’s not just shot-stopping. It’s decision making. It’s organizing. It’s communicating. At the end of the day that’s the most important thing, is making the right decision, hopefully, every time.”
Despite the heavily rebuilt roster, Kennedy knows a team like the Galaxy does not get to enjoy a rebuilding year. Expectations are, as usual, high.
“Obviously there’s going to be high expectations with this group,” the goalkeeper said, “but we expect to do some damage.”
While Kennedy enters his ninth year in the MLS, and his 11th as a professional, there’s still one type of experience the veteran cannot claim. He has never won a trophy at any professional level, and has never played in an MLS playoff game.
When asked what his personal goal was for the upcoming season, his response was simple.
“Yeah,” he laughed. “Win something.”
Wow this story got buried. Too bad, it”s worthy of more attention. I for one think that Kennedy is far better than he ever got credit for. He was stuck at Chivas, who sucked. Dude must have made a million saves. Won’t be surprised if he’s being talked about as keeper of the year if Galaxy turns out to be a good team.