On Wednesday we examined the state of local USL side Orange County Blues’ offseason so far, while also discussing the questions surrounding the full development picture at the club moving forward. Today, it’s time to take a look at the other local USL team, LA Galaxy II.
Obviously, Los Dos are in a considerably different position from Orange County in that they are owned by an MLS team and are clearly a reserve team of the MLS side. Their mission is different from the independently-owned OC, as a team whose first objective is to be part of the developmental pipeline for the overall Galaxy organization.
And while Galaxy II have not announced any player signings this offseason, with a great number of USL teams getting an early jump this year, that delay fits in with most MLS2 teams in the league, who historically have tended to build their lineups in the final weeks, even days before the start of the season. MLS2 teams are usually made up of a combination of players loaned down from the first team, a few players with a low chance of making the move to MLS, several prospects for the future, and current academy players and recent academy products. As a result, many of the players who will join the team don’t need to be locked up early, as they are presumably already part of the organization in some capacity. And in that way, Galaxy II’s inaction so far in the signing game is not a big deal at all.
So beyond that, how does the pipeline look for the Galaxy overall? If the MLS team is the top level, and the USL team below that, what is the rest of the picture?
Unlike many clubs, including several MLS teams, the Galaxy do not have a PDL team at present. That may seem like an oversight, but in many respects, the USL team is serving many of the same functions as a PDL team would. The big function of PDL teams is giving college players a chance to play in the summer, when school is not in session. Yes, there are a few non-college players on every team, but the main purpose is providing a short season to help prospects in their college years get more competitive minutes.
Obviously, the Galaxy academy sends players off to college each year. And while some of those players will turn out to be professionals one day, the Galaxy’s blueprint has largely moved away from that model. The last Homegrown player for LA to attend college was Gyasi Zardes, and most of the Homegrowns are signing pro deals as teenagers and foregoing college soccer altogether.
As a result, and because USL rules allow a handful of current academy players to suit up for the USL side each season, the USL option is more in line with the Galaxy’s plans than fielding an additional PDL side. Bypassing that avenue altogether does not seem to be a handicap for the club’s development pipeline.
And of course at the beginning of said pipeline is the academy. In addition to the Carson-based main LA Galaxy academy, which has its own high school now at CSU Dominguez Hills, there’s five academy alliances around Southern California, in Northern San Diego County, the South Bay, Bakersfield, Conejo Valley and Orange County.
The Galaxy academy is respected in the area, around MLS, and it produces pros, too. In addition to the many players who play for the USL side that have come out of the Galaxy academy, they have signed the likes of Zardes, Jack McBean, Jose Villarreal, Bradford Jamieson IV, Raul Mendiola, Oscar Sorto, and back in the day, Tristan Bowen from their academy set-up. In some of those cases, the players made their way into the Galaxy academy fairly late, or through past partnership agreements in Southern California, which speaks to the allure of the club that they can bring in top prospects and deliver a path to the pros so seamlessly.
So all in all, the groundwork has been laid and is really starting to pay off on up the organization as the pipeline matures. The USL team looks to be a major link in the chain, and despite the lack of news so far this offseason, which now includes the need to hire a new head coach with Curt Onalfo moving up to the first team head coach’s post, the team is basically right where it should be at this time of the offseason. And if anything, Onalfo’s promotion may mean an even greater relevance for LA Galaxy II in relation to the MLS team, as all indications are that the Galaxy will be looking to harness the potential of their development structure to a greater extent in MLS moving forward.