The LA Galaxy are set for their 22nd season, as they'll kick off their regular season on Saturday against FC Dallas at StubHub Center (1 pm PT, Univis
The LA Galaxy are set for their 22nd season, as they’ll kick off their regular season on Saturday against FC Dallas at StubHub Center (1 pm PT, Univision, tickets). The game will provide an immediate litmus test for the new-look Galaxy, who have undergone considerable upheaval in the offseason.
Most notably, Bruce Arena’s departure to take the U.S. Men’s National Team head coaching job opened up two jobs for the Galaxy, with Pete Vagenas taking over as general manager and Curt Onalfo being appointed first team head coach. The biggest question coming into the season is if Vagenas and Onalfo will keep the ship steady, so to speak, as the team adjusts to a new head coach, and a raft of young Homegrown players are added to the roster.
Given the apparent riches in the Galaxy’s academy system for a number of years, there have been calls for talented youngsters in the system to get more playing time with the first team, and all signs point to Onalfo giving out more minutes to them this year. But how much will that impact results? If the Galaxy hit a rough patch or drop well down in the standings, will they stay the course with the youth infusion?
Of course, even with all of the academy and LA Galaxy II products set to get more of a chance this season, there is still considerable experience on the roster returning. Jelle Van Damme is back, Giovani dos Santos is effectively being given the keys to the team, and Gyasi Zardes and Sebastian Lletget will get every opportunity to show they can make a big step up in MLS this season, provided they stay healthy. Add in the big offseason acquisition, French winger Romain Alessandrini, certainly not as big of a name as a Beckham or Gerrard or Keane, but possibly the kind of player who can slot into a team and fit MLS’ profile fairly easily these days.
And yes, there’s always the risk with a big-name addition that it may not work out. Alessandrini appears eager to be in LA, which is always the first hurdle, but we’ll see how he adjusts to a unique league as the weeks progress.
Another question for the team will be if Onalfo can get it right in MLS on the third try. In his first two stops in MLS, with Kansas City and D.C., he was fired as he struggled to get results. Perhaps coincidentally, both coaches who replaced him, Peter Vermes and Ben Olsen, respectively, remain the head coaches at their respective teams.
Onalfo clearly has an understanding of how the Galaxy operate, not to mention additional experience, from his time coaching LA Galaxy II. But while every manager must move on at some point, the shadow of Arena will loom over this team for the foreseeable future. Onalfo may be the unfortunate person who has to replace a legend. A great season will help it recede, but is this Galaxy team in position to win a trophy this year?
Of course, these questions won’t be answered in Saturday’s season opener. The game is just the first of 34, not counting the U.S. Open Cup, and not counting the playoffs if they qualify. There are at least eight months of competitive soccer ahead for the Galaxy, and if nothing else, it will be fascinating to see what changes and what remains the same, what works and what won’t, as the season progresses for this team. But first, there’s the game against FC Dallas.
(Image courtesy of LA Galaxy)