Stevie G becomes a G (we assume)

Typical!  Mere days after I donate my collection of curly wigs, false mustaches and shell-suits to the Salvation Army, this happens!

Well, I assume it’s happening.  The media, internet and twittery folks seem pretty confident.

I refer of course to the almost-certainly imminent signing of Steven “Most Unfortunate use of the Word ‘Slip’ Ever” Gerrard by The Los Angeles Galaxy.

Forgive me if I seem almost skeptical about this being a done deal.  I gather it is happening.  It’s just that this is Major League Soccer. Last season alone LA Galaxy traded away Kofi Opare in the belief that they were bringing in Sacha Kljestan, only for some combination of the League, Columbus Crew and Allocation Orders to nix it at the last moment.  In the same season, we had Commissioner Don Garber, performing the first MLS “Blind Draw” to determine which of the deadlocked New England Revolution and Chicago Fire got Jermain Jones.

Note also that in my time as a Galaxy fan, everybody except Bruce Arena seemed ready to roll out the welcome mat for Ronaldinho and a deal for Lampard seemed all but done, only for Chelsea to realise he hadn’t turned crap after all.

Until I see Chris Klein at a podium, announcing that Mr Gerrard is a fully signed, locked-in LA Galaxy player, I won’t be 100% comfortable declaring that the home of the Stars is now also home of the Starfish (Google is your friend).

Why even now, Bruce Arena is probably in New York, in a triple-threat mud-wrestling match with Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and the Timbers’ Caleb Porter for Stevie G’s rights.

Nonetheless, all signs point to him being a Galaxy player after Liverpool FC wraps up their season in May.  The debate is already raging about whether this is the right signing and what it means for MLS.

The points of contention are as follows:

He’s a midfielder and Galaxy already has Juninho and Marcello Sarvas: On this one, I’m hoping he isn’t coming in to replace either of these players.  Obviously, he would be an upgrade and the one thing LA has been lacking in recent years is consistent creativity from central midfield.  However, that’s not a $6m a year problem (SG’s reported salary) and it’s not a great use of your vacant Designated Player spot to moderately improve a strong area.

I guess it would add depth as right now the first level of cover is inappropriately-nicknamed journeyman, “Baggio” Husidic.  Again though, it’s not worth that roster place and that outlay.

In any case I doubt (and I hope I’m right) he’s being signed as a simple central midfielder.

He not the right replacement for Landon Donovan: Controversial.  He’s a very different player than LD.  He’s not a pacey, direct forward.  However, what Donovan had in athleticism, Gerrard more than makes up for with technical ability.  I can see him replacing Landon’s goal and assist production, albeit in a different manner.  I’m expecting goals from distance and dangerous passing, not to mention the gap in set-piece delivery left by Beckham to be filled.  Gerrard will also be more effective at winning the ball.

This is why I hope he isn’t shoved in the midfield in place of our current pairing.  He’d sit nicely at the top of a midfield three or behind the front two.  In fact, from observing him all these years, I’m confident that anywhere we put him in the attacking third will make little difference to how he actually operates.

His best role for Liverpool is in my opinion, the same thing that hampered his partnership with Lampard for England.  Their natural games were too similar.  By nature, Gerrard is a free-roaming, well-rounded midfielder, with an emphasis on attack.  Play him in the middle, out wide, just off the forward and he’ll do the same thing: spray long passes around and look to make late runs and distance shots around the box.

Put him in any attacking midfield role and I think he’ll produce.

He’s on the decline: I’m glad that the reported deal is only for 18 months.  He has noticeably declined and I’m sure that’s why he’s on his way to MLS.  That doesn’t help perceptions of the league as a “retirement” destination but that’s not something I’m concerned about.  They were saying that about the Premiership when Ruud Gullit and Fabrizio Ravanelli arrived.  I have no problem with MLS being a place where up-and-comers and older elite players ply their trade.

In terms of on-field impact, this is another reason why I’d prefer Gerrard to be deployed in a more dedicated attack-minded role.  He doesn’t need to cover as much ground anymore. Then again, as much as I hate to say it, his experience and the level of play in MLS may negate what he has lost physically.  Remember that Clint Dempsey performs step overs and back heels here.

My biggest concern about his age is the longevity, hence my happiness with the relatively short contract.  This does however, create a situation where this is a short term fix.  He’ll miss the first few months of his first season as it is.  It may not be too long before the Galaxy find themselves once again seeking a new DP.  In two years’ time, who knows?  We may be looking to replace Bruce Arena himself.

Nonetheless, barring some kind of injury between now and May, I have few reservations about his ability to contribute right now.

The position should have gone to a younger, flashier player: Nice idea, but who?  Bruce Arena already reportedly turned down Ronaldinho a number of years ago.  While Gerrard isn’t as flashy to watch, I don’t see too many players better that could be obtained.  The best we could do is trade for a highly regarded up-and-comer who isn’t quite well enough regarded and/or developed to be on a bigger league’s radar.  Those are hard to come by and potential doesn’t always guarantee production.

He played for Liverpool and I don’t like them: Yes, there have been a few of these comments. Obviously, they’re stupid.  If he’s playing for LA, he’s not a Liverpool player.  Within reason, I’ll forgive most things from a player if he’s giving his all for my club (notable exceptions being heinous crimes or the advocacy of Clint Dempsey’s rap career).

So there we have it.  If Steven Gerrard does indeed reach May unscathed and the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement doesn’t introduce an Incoming Scouser Distribution System in the next few weeks, I’ll be happy to have him.

I don’t think it’s a signing entirely without potential pitfalls.  Attitude is the difference in MLS between being a Robbie Keane or a Rafa Marquez.  I’m pretty sure Gerrard will be fine on that score, though even Becks resolve seemed to break temporarily when faced with playing alongside Alvaro Pires.  There’s also the case of age, progressive decline, artificial pitches and extensive travel.

But again: Clint Dempsey does step overs here.


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