PREVIEW – Just one thing comes to mind when thinking about the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2021 campaign. Two things, really. The first is, despite having one of the highest payrolls in the league, Los Angeles failed to make the playoffs again. That’s the fourth time out of the last five seasons. The second is the pain of keeping alive their tradition of postseason elimination on MLS Decision Day. Last year, the Galaxy were bounced with only about five minutes to go in the regular season, so, they’re getting closer, right? L.A. will try to finally get over the Decision Day hump this year. Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney and his team have frequently mentioned missing the playoffs as motivation for the coming season. That season and playoff hopes will be looked at in this preview.
2022 Los Angeles Galaxy Season Preview
For the first time in the last few years, the Galaxy off-season has been relatively stable. No coaching change was needed, and neither was a huge roster overhaul. The key signings Vanney has made should make the club more dynamic and function more efficiently if they work out.
Key Arrivals: Douglas Costa, Mark Delgado,
Key Departures: Jonathan Dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget, Daniel Steres
Young Player to Watch: Jalen Neal, Jonathan Perez
Daniel Steres and fan-favorites Jonathan Dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget were the key departures from Los Angeles this off-season. It may have crushed Lletget fans when he was traded to New England, but the truth is his best performances the last few seasons were in a USMNT shirt. For the Galaxy, Sebas usually produced moments of good play surrounded by maddening inconsistency and an apparent refusal to push the ball forward. Although the classy goals he scored against the goats will live long in the memory, it’s better for him and the Galaxy that he’s moved on.
L.A.’s captain, Jona Dos Santos’ past two seasons in a Galaxy shirt hadn’t been what G’s expected from him or deserved either. His departure allowed for experienced former MLS Cup Champion Mark Delgado’s signing. Still just 26 despite a decade in MLS, Galaxy fans will hope Delgado can be the player Dos Santos should have been for the foreseeable future. Dos Santos’ departure also freed up a DP spot, which the Galaxy used to bring in former Juventus and Bayern Munich winger Douglas Costa.
With Costa joining, the Galaxy attack should have no problem finding goals. If they need a spark, slight but exciting attacking player Jonathan Perez can come off the bench and give defenses issues with his directness. Defense is where the club really needs help, however. Center Back Jalen Neal was signed from Galaxy II last year, and only an injury kept him from more playing time and the first team. Vanney has spoken very highly of him, and he’ll probably be called on early and often this season.
Can Douglas Costa settle in easily, revive his career, and make an impact?
It might be unfair, but in an off-season in which Lorenzo Insigne, Thiago Almada, and Xherdan Shaqiri arrived to MLS, Costa’s signing will be watched and compared to theirs. Even more so because of his championship pedigree and resume in Europe. It doesn’t help matters that Costa is the Galaxy’s new DP signing, meaning that he’ll be expected to produce early and often. Vanney pursued him for months and claims that Costa is the type of “game-changer” the Galaxy need and his addition will bring another dimension to the attack. At 31, Costa’s critics say he’s unmotivated and his best days are behind him. He claims he’s arrived happy, hungry, and motivated. If he can find even half the form that made him into one of the most feared wingers in Serie A and the Bundesliga, he’ll be a nightmare for MLS defenders.
Does Julian Araujo stay, or does he go?
In a summer that saw many talented young MLS players get exported to Europe, it was surprising that Julian Araujo wasn’t mentioned more. He had a career-high in assists last season and was one of the few bright spots in the back four. Last year, there were various Tottenham rumors, and the feeling was that his transfer to Europe was just a matter of time. The Galaxy hopes that the young Mexican National team international right-back will continue to stay in Los Angeles, but seem to be preparing for life without him by bringing in Kelvin Leerdam to cover the position. One thing is for sure, Araujo will continue to improve, and Galaxy fans should enjoy him while they have him.
Will Los Angeles make the playoffs?
By bringing in players with championship experience like Costa, Leerdam, Delgado, and Raheem Edwards, Vanney hopes to have set up his team to exercise Decision Day demons and make the playoffs. This will be the most important question in Los Angeles again this season. It’ll also be the benchmark for a successful campaign. It’s as simple as that.
Last Word: 2022 Prediction
Last year, LWOS colleague Matt Pollard correctly called the Galaxy would take eighth place in the West and just miss the playoffs. Let’s reverse that this season. Vanney’s key signings will improve the club and Costa, despite having a spotlight on him, will shoulder it comfortably. He’ll combine well with attacking partners Kevin Cabral and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández. Despite this, defensive liabilities see the Galaxy just make the playoffs, likely as a sixth or seventh seed. But the foundational culture Vanney has tried to build, finally bears fruit, making the future look bright in L.A. once again.
Photo Credit: Mark Shaiken, Last Word on Soccer.