From Last Word on Soccer, by Matt Pollard
The 2017 MLS season is upon us. The LA Galaxy underwent significant change this off-season. Head Coach Bruce Arena left for the U.S. Men’s National Team. He took his staff with him. Pete Vagenas and LA Galaxy II Head Coach Curt Onalfo got promotions.
Three Questions For The 2017 LA Galaxy Season
A bunch of old players left. A.J. DeLaGarza got traded. And a bunch of young guys are going to get playing time in MLS. So with all the changes and uncertainty, here’s our top three questions for the 2017 LA Galaxy season.
Are The Kids Going To Be Alright?
Cause they’re going to need to be ok. The Galaxy are already facing some depth issues. That’s going to force some kids into the starting lineup early on in the season, rather than coming off the bench. Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Rogers are already injured. Ashley Cole just got hurt in preseason and could be out a while.
Those are positions where the Galaxy don’t have a veteran MLS player as a back up. Other than Rafa Garcia at right back. That’s multiple Homegrowns or former Los Dos guys who will be stepping in. DeLaGarza and Leonardo both left for the Houston Dynamo in the off-season. As a result, the Galaxy went from being one of the deepest back lines in MLS to one of the thinnest.
Then there’s national team call-ups. During international play, the Galaxy could be even more short-handed. Zardes and Jermaine Jones will probably be called up for the US. Giovani dos Santos is probably getting called up for Mexico. Sebastian Lletget could also get called up for the US. That’s four more spots that will need filling, with young players being in key roles.
That means the kids are going to get thrown into the fire, early. The Galaxy were planning a youth movement this off-season, but they weren’t expecting to count on the kids this early and this much.
So About That Summer DP Slot?
The Galaxy front office did show they learned a thing or two from Arena. Jelle Van Damme was made a DP for the first half of the season in a crafty move that will ultimately save them some TAM. Dos Santos and Romain Alessandrini are occupying the other two slots. But when the summer comes, the Galaxy will throw TAM at Van Damme’s contract, opening up a DP slot.
What will they do with that DP slot? There’s still the rumors about Jonathan dos Santos. He’ll be out of contract with Villarreal, so the Galaxy won’t have to pay a transfer fee/buy out clause to get him. They could also bring in a player to fill a role that is as of now unforeseen.
One of the big questions here is what level of player are they going to bring in? There’s still some uncertainty as to whether or on the Galaxy are operating on a smaller budget. And is that a mandate from ownership in some way? Bring in a not-old super star, and they’ll reaffirm that they’re the big money super club. Bring in a guy no one in MLS has heard of for $1 million, and things have clearly changed.
There’s nothing wrong with having three DP players with none of them making $7 million. But it’s definitely a change from the Galaxy that would bring in the big name to sell jerseys and be the center piece of the team.
Can Curt Onalfo Be The Real Deal In MLS?
Head Coach Curt Onalfo his the most significant cog in this youth movement machine. He was hand picked by the Galaxy front office. Signs point to them pegging him as Arena’s successor for years. No one knows the inner workings of the club and the academy like he does. No one is more qualified to make this project work.
That said, he’s historically a 0.500 coach at the MLS level. Will his Galaxy be better than that in 2017? Onalfo’s got all the support around him from the organization and the players he coached at Los Dos. He’s also got some new hurdles to face. There’s the injuries and national team absences mentioned above. The roster is very different from last season. And this is the Galaxy; there are expectations.
It’s one thing if the coach makes a bunch of changes but his staff stay in tact. It’s one thing if the front office shifts but the players are all familiar with each other. It’s something else when both of those change significantly.
The Galaxy don’t need to win big for this year to be a success. Making the playoffs is probably a reasonable expectation. But Onalfo does need to show progression of the plan. Show that this team can be what FC Dallas is now in two or three years.