Thursday, February 19, 2015

Los Angeles Galaxy 2015 Preview: Just...Good. Dammit.

The first video in search for "drunk on self-belief." That's it.
What Happened Last Year
Landon and Donovan, mostly. Jesus, did that story-line suck up a lot of the Los Angeles Galaxy's oxygen last year. I won't pretend I didn't follow it and absorb it (more), or even that I didn't choke up when Donovan broke the record(s) (link under "follow," I think), etc. Still, it's surprisingly easy to forget that LA kicked a lot of ass on the way to winning MLS Cup. By the end of the season, even into the playoffs, the Galaxy somnolently stumbled from one game to the next. Apart from the holy hurt they put on Real Salt Lake in the second leg of their playoff series, they didn't dominate clubs down the stretch; instead, it took only some minimum number of their players stirring just long enough to score the decisive goal. In that same spirit, LA surrendered the Supporters' Shield to the Seattle Sounders with a shrug. Cold-eyed confidence feels very much part of LA's culture; it's as if they know they'll win the next one. Sure, there were great moments – see, the rightly-celebrated 20+ pass build-up; Robbie Keane pulling a goal or two from his nethers, etc. – but this Galaxy team must have played one of the quietest all-time greatest seasons in sporting history. Very methodical, basically. Disturbing methodical. Nothing speaks to that as clearly as their goals for/against numbers.
Final Stats: 17-7-10, 64 points, 2nd in the East; 69 gf, 37 ga (both league best; tied on the ga)

What's Happened Since
Donovan retired, obvs. Marcelo Sarvas took off for what sounds like a bigger role with the Colorado Rapids, but every other departure was, no offense to the individual players, quiet and forgettable. With the club returning a core that solid, replacing Donovan's goals and assists undoubtedly provides the biggest challenge. That's not to short-change the hole Sarvas left, but the only position the U.S. produces en masse besides goalkeepers are the kind of midfielder to fill said hole. They haven't bothered with the latter yet – the last chatter I heard talked about Baggio Husidic slotting into central midfield – but LA did pull in another big-name designated player (DP). Because, LA. Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard (who has apparently produced some retirement fatigue of his own) won’t join the Galaxy until July. It’s hard to figure out where they’ll play him, but, hey, it’s the Galaxy, so it’ll probably work out just fine.

What to Expect This Year
Watching the Gerrard experiment will be all right, I suppose. And the thing with Donovan's number might not matter: the +32 goal differential the club turned in last season provides plenty of cushion for a fall-off. Vegas odds-makers see LA winning it all again. I'm not sure how much there is to add after that. Perennial winners are kind of boring in their own weird way.

Just a really, really solid team drunk on self-belief and with ample cause.

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