What’s up with the Los Angeles Galaxy? It’s a question many MLS fans ask themselves with the current state of the five-time MLS Cup winners and one time CONCACAF Champions' Cup winner. The Galaxy during the David Beckham era was able to win two back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012 and last won the major prize in 2014.
Since then, it has been virtually downhill for a Galaxy club that has tried quick fix signings to little avail, Gio Dos Santos, Cristian Pavón, Zlatan Ibrahimović, and now Javier Hernández was some of the big names with little trophies to show for their high-priced signatures.
So, what has led to this fall from grace for the Galaxy? Why has the team become stagnant, we take a look at the current team and recent history of the LA Galaxy.
A roster full of underachievers or past their prime players
The Galaxy was once known as a club that had a lot of star power but also had a lot of supporting cast players that were able to lift the club to glory, think Mike Magee, Baggio Husidic, Juninho, and in his prime Omar González. Today there is a lot of questions about the level of play coming from Víctor Vázquez and Sacha Kljestan, players who three years ago could have given the Galaxy a major boost but today are playing in the final years of their careers, hardly the players you would think can lead the Galaxy to a championship.
Mark Delgado is a typical roster signing in MLS but has only produced 1 goal in 14 outings, the Galaxy is a team hampered by average players. Even the DP’s come into question, as AEG is one of the wealthiest soccer owners in the world, yet the DP crop of Kévin Cabral, Douglas Costa, and Javier Hernández are hardly the signings you’d expect from a “win now” club that the Galaxy claim to be.
If one looks at the recent history of the Galaxy it is a far cry from the club’s glory years, missing the MLS Cup playoffs 4 out the last 5 seasons, in the US Open Cup the Galaxy have not fared any better usually placing the tournament on the back burner and last reaching the semifinals in 2016.
What kind of club has the Galaxy turned into?
It would appear that the Galaxy, who were always a win now club have become a sort of quick fix team. Zlatan Ibrahimović, the club’s last major blockbuster signing delivered on all aspects, goals, headlines, and image, but was woefully coached by Guillermo Barros Schelotto as the club floundered big time with Zlatan. While Ibrahimović eventually played the villain for calling out the complacency of MLS teams and the Galaxy as a side, those who tried to balk on Ibrahimović’s statements have begun to come around.
The Galaxy, the league’s biggest team due to their history, are content with just making the playoffs. The fans have made it known that is not what they expect from the five-time champions, who have not played a continental competition since 2015. Basically, imagine if Manchester United or Real Madrid were not even qualifying for European competitions. The Galaxy is nowhere near the map of continental teams in the region.
Julián Araujo and Efraín Álvarez are the club’s most valuable assets in the transfer market although despite many rumors the Galaxy, not known for being a selling club, have yet to make big outgoing transfers. The Galaxy does have a good academy but major players like FC Dallas they are not, and this project besides the two names mentioned has not really ever kicked off.
This season the Galaxy sit fifth in the Western conference at 7-5-3 a rather mediocre record but at least in playoff positions, Javier Hernández is the club’s leading goals scorer with 6 and Dejan Joveljić has 3. In regard to style the Galaxy look like a mixed bag on the field showing no real consistency, but in MLS consistency is an afterthought.
With the elimination in the US Open Cup the Galaxy are back to just focusing on MLS, hoping that all the pieces fall into place, and they can “steal” an MLS Cup in the forgiving league. While the Galaxy may boast about being a big-time club, there really isn’t anything that big anymore at Dignity Health Sports Park other than the past glories.
One major reason why this is the case is the lack of identity that comes from the top, former general manager Dennis te Kloese gave the club virtually nothing when it came to direction, he basically signed Javier Hernández but, on the field, made one bad decision after another naming Guillermo Barros Schelotto as the head coach when GBS was coming off a brutal Copa Libertadores final defeat to River Plate.
Today the GM position is a “shared responsibility” meaning a lot of voices but no real direction, Greg Vanney’s record is completely mediocre for a coach that once won MLS Cup. For the Galaxy getting it right at the top with a clear direction is a must or they will continue to be on the road to being the next DC United.