It all started so promisingly.
Steven Gerrard was buggering off back to Blighty. Robbie Keane, though a legend, was not compatible with Gio Dos Santos and was moving on, hopefully setting the Mexican star up as the foundation around which the side could be rebuilt. Sebastian Lletget had been a revelation in midfield towards the back end of the 2016 season. Gyasi Zardes was on his way back.
There was work to be done, but we were starting from a decent place.
Then it happened: Jurgen Klinsmann had finally done enough to force the hand of his former greatest fan, USSF President Sunil Gulati, and got canned from the US Men’s National Team Head Coach and Technical Director roles.
When Bruce Arena was offered his old USMNT job back, he didn’t hesitate. The Galaxy responded relatively promptly and promoted Pete “be careful not to misspell my surname” Vagenas to the position of General Manager and Curt “never mind my previous MLS record” Onalfo to Head Coach, the latter having filled the same role for “LA Galaxy II: LA Galaxier”.
While they weren’t the glitziest of appointments, they made a bit of sense from a continuity standpoint. Pete had already been assisting Bruce in his Front Office role and as the Los Dos coach, there was at least some logic in appointing Onalfo if the team was intending to rely more on their youth prospects.
Then a rumour emerged which suggested that these appointments may have been less about culture and more about price. According to said rumour, AEG weren’t happy with the return on their ongoing, substantial investment in the team.
This instantly led to all manner of interpretations.
At the most optimistic end of the scale, the parent company had merely grown frustrated with the sight of the highly expensive Steven Gerrard floundering miserably for 18 months and talk of locker room issues surrounding a frustrated Keane. While the FO were happy with the commercial end of Stevie G’s tenure, they were more interested in what happened on the field and would therefore prefer younger DPs, closer to their prime.
At the most damning end of the scale, AEG had run out of patience waiting for the Galaxy to start pulling in a serious return and were no longer happy to throw huge paychecks at big name acquisitions and an expensive coaching staff.
Like most things of this nature, the truth is likely somewhere in between.
In any case, without knowing any details, this wasn’t enough to cause alarm.
Then came the news that Landon Donovan wouldn’t be offered a DP contract and would be re-retiring. This was then proven to be utter tripe, when the freshly released Donovan went over to Utah to discuss a move to Real Salt Lake. Ultimately, nothing came of it and LD re-retired after all.
Meanwhile the club had traded for the rights to Jermaine Jones but negotiations to actually sign the player, were moving like Alan Gordon wading through putty in a fat-suit.
Speaking of Alan Gordon, he was leaving for Colorado, where we all expect he’ll score exclusively against the Galaxy. Meanwhile, the greatest player in the history of the game Mike Magee announced his retirement, though he clarified that he would still be performing as his two astral avatars, Lional Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the weekend.
Still, nothing too damning as yet.
Then came the news that AJ DeLaGarza, despite being told a couple of weeks earlier that there were no plans to trade him, had in fact been traded to Houston. With Leonardo – the reasonable defender who turned mental lapses into an art form – also joining him with the Dynamo, the Galaxy defence was looking very thin.
Assurances that Dave Romney could play anywhere in the back four did little to ease our concerns.
Then things got a little more promising. After a period of uncharacteristic lack of transfer rumours, reports came forth that the Galaxy were in negotiations with promising 23 year old Portuguese defensive midfielder Joao Pena, the enigmatic 27 year old Frenchman, Romain Alessandrini and juciest of all, Gio’s brother Jonathan Dos Santos.
In fairly short order, the former two – along with Jones finally – were signed. JDS was not, though rumours prevail that he is on course to join in the summer.
The Galaxy Marketing indulged in their usual inexplicable weirdness, announcing Alessandrini’s high-profile arrival with the tweet “Welcome Romain Lettuce”.
Nothing says aspiring, elite-run superclub like making painfully bad jokes about your new star player’s name.
Then there was the announcement that Joao Pena would be wearing #58, a number which apparently has great meaning to him. On his preseason debut, he wore #8.
Not a huge issue, except the organization’s handling of shirt numbers in the media would be another messy feature of the off-season.
Jermaine Jones you see, has always worn #13.
The number 13 was also the number of LA Galaxy legend Cobi Jones (no relation).
Upon Cobi’s retirement in 2007, the Galaxy retired his number, in a traditional common in US sports but rare in soccer. They had a ceremony and everything.
Therefore, it caused mild surprise when the shirt was unretired for Jones. Not that it was that big of a problem. You could understand his desire to have the number and while it devalues the gesture to Cobi and makes the previous ceremony a bit of a farce, it’s not the end of the world.
The trouble was with how the club handled it. Instead of initially explaining the decision, they went with staunch denial. They claimed that the Galaxy and MLS don’t retire numbers and that they had never retired Cobi’s. Given that a significant number of fans attended the aforementioned ceremony, the whole thing felt like a very crass, cheesy attempt to avoid explaining a decision.
Of course, if they hadn’t retired the shirt, then why did they publish a splash image on social media with a JJ quote about it’s significance and why did they feel the need for Cobi to make an awkward statement about how he was cool with it?
Then came the on-field issues.
Gyasi, who had supposedly bruised a knee while in the USMNT camp, actually underwent an operation. He’s therefore lost a big chunk of preseason and is unlikely to be ready for March 4th.
Our forward cover? The relatively inexperienced duo of Ariel Lassiter and Jack McBean.
Worse still, Robbie Rogers – part of the paper-thin back line – revealed that he had been experiencing complications from a surgery on his foot that he’d had during the close season. The man explained that he has lost feeling in his left foot and there is no clear time frame on when this will clear up. That’s right folks: the only true rightback in the squad, is out of the game indefinitely; something the team apparently knew before trading away AJ.
So far, the answer in preseason has been to play journeyman defensive midfielder, Rafael Garcia in the role.
Then yesterday, Ashley Cole got what looks like a pretty rough injury.
With a week and a half left until the start of the season, things are looking worrying.
We have a new coach that has a very underwhelming MLS record, a GM that seems to be completely ignoring vast swaths of the roster, key players injured with little back up and an FO operation that increasingly feels something a bunch of college kids are doing in their spare time.
Things could still work out and cover may be brought in before first kick. However, the signs are troubling.
At the start of the off-season, I was cautiously optimistic. As of now I’m balled up in a fetal position, bracing myself for pain reminiscent of the Gullit era.
On the plus side, at least they didn’t try to give me a pair of ill-fitting flip flops this year.