I hope everyone had a good Turkey Day and watched lots of futbol Americano (it’s what God wants you to do on Thanksgiving…trust me). It’s good to be back.
The simple presence of the David Beckham Singularity means only the rankest of Major League Soccer (MLS) neophytes doesn’t know the sorry tale of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 2007. Once everyone, the Galaxy players included, digested the fact that league officials had abused LA’s schedule to the point of cruelty, winning the early games seemed important to the team’s success. When that didn’t pan out – to the tune of going 1-3-3 through April and May – “panic” items of all sorts were punched, pulled, yanked, prayed to, etc. Out went names from the familiar – Tyrone Marshall, Shavar Thomas, and Nate “Damned Lucky” Jaqua – to the promising and obscure – Robbie Findley and Nate Sturgis – and in came a stable of familiar, perhaps underwhelming names like Edson Buddle, Chris Klein, Kelly Gray, and Carlos Pavon. They picked up a more impressive name/trade with Portuguese defender Abel Xavier, but he stands as a near-exception in a season of head-scratching trades.
The upshot of all that horse-trading – based, for the record, on the assumption that these were players of “character” up to handling Life with Beckham – was a 3-5-4 record in league play heading into the All-Star break and a long layoff from league play. Then came Beckham…and that’s when things really started sucking.
The yo-yo tale of Beckham’s pair of injuries, the fans burned by semi-coercive ticket packages built around seeing Beckham, and, most significantly, the distraction of too many friendlies, too many games (league plus Superliga, etc.) – all these familiar talking points – coincided with/caused a downright horrifying August and September, when the Galaxy set a standard for incompetence that had many viewing them as the worst team in MLS. It seemed LA GM’ Alexi Lalas’ “gem” was a cubic zirconia.
And then, when all seemed lost (and deservedly so), the Galaxy did what quite possibly everyone feared they would: they started winning – five straight games, in fact. Completing the nightmare, for league marketers especially, they didn’t do this through the magic of Beckham, but on the legs of the cheap labor, guys like Mike Randoph, Troy Roberts, and Josh Tudela. Some “names” helped out – Kyle Martino, Joe Cannon and, of course, Landon Donovan – but of the “character” guys brought in by management, only Klein popped up on the starting elevens that came during the Galaxy’s glory run.
Order and justice returned when LA ended that lifeline streak by tripping up against Red Bull New York; Chicago and John Thorrington just made it official. Thus ended one of the weirdest seasons in MLS history. It contained a highlight or two – a brilliant loss to Red Bull in league play and against a shoot-out win over FC Dalas in the Superliga, a tournament the Galaxy did well in losing – but it also contained frankly pathetic losses; I’m thinking here of bowing out at home to a 10-man Columbus Crew and one-or-more outright humiliations at the hands of co-tenants, Chivas USA.
Things might have hurt in 2006, when LA failed to reach the playoffs for the first time in club history. But it looks like they welcomed Beckham to America with something truly special: his first season with a truly dire team. Oh wait…I forgot about England…
– After qualifying for the actual Open Cup (where LA would lose, incidentally, to the third-division Richmond Kickers), LA suffered a five-game winless streak. This only sucks because this was when they needed wins.
– Sadly, that didn’t hold a candle to their late-summer woes. The Galaxy went a pitiful 1-8-2 between August 5 and September 19, a stretch that included a six-game losing streak in league play. At least they had Superliga…
– Then again, they also enjoyed the aforementioned 5-game winning streak, the one that nearly got them into the post-season…the same one that also proved that, in MLS, you can SUCK DONKEY COCK through most of the season if you can get it right for, oh, the final six games.
What Went Right
Very little, actually.
– OK, they shined – in so far as a tarnished cubic zirconium can – in Superliga. They pushed the dang final to PKs after all.
– Oh, and some of the young, cheap players showed well – think Randolph, Harden, and Roberts.
– All right, all right. They made a lot of cash off Beckham…or so I’ve heard.
– Like a lot of teams, LA suffered a serious plague of injuries.
– A clear majority of their trades. Pavon never really (remotely?) delivered, Kelly Gray didn’t add a lot, and Buddle was Buddle. Only Klein provided anything like an upside, but that came at the cost a promising forward like Findley and a good utility player like Sturgis. Again, I blame Alexi Lalas.
– They ended the season on the low side of goals for and the high side of goals against.
– The team seemed to wilt in the spotlight and at least one of Frank Yallop’s freakouts felt too much like a man melting down in public.
Key Men (as in the Ones You Want Back) (roster)
Abel Xavier: I thought he did well enough, especially if he only made ~$150K.
Chris Albright: Though the injuries are becoming a concern.
Landon Donovan: Assuming they can keep him…and I think they can.
David Beckham: Do they have a choice? If so, would they take it? (Are they nuts?)
Randolph/Roberts/Tudela: Solid and cheap; they owe them more.
Joe Cannon: Even if swapping him for Hartman never added up completely.
Ante Jazic: He’s solid.
Anyone Who Ought to Leave
Carlos Pavon: He didn’t retire yet, did he? But he ought to.
Edson Buddle: I want you to succeed badly as you do, son. But…
What They’re Needin’
– A forward consistent forward- and this could be harder than they think; Jaqua may be nothing like the best forward in MLS, but he was positively cursed while with LA. Big picture, though, Alan Gordon is a tolerable back-up…and that is all.
– One more experienced, quality defender at least. Could someone run the rationale for trading Shavar Thomas by me one more time?
– Midfield presence with a bit more quality than Kevin Harmse and a more competent bite than you get from Kyle Martino and bulk than you get from Pete Vagenas.
– Some kind of wide threat seems like a good idea too.
– Figure out Beckham. The Brit showed pretty well when he played – beginning with a speed of thought rarely seen in MLS – but, seriously, seeing as I expect this team will be built around him, they need to think a hell of a lot harder about things than they have so far.
Filed under: David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy, Major League Soccer, season reviews | Tagged: Abel Xavier, Ante Jazic, Carlos Pavon, Chris Klein, Edson Buddle, Mike Randolph, Troy Roberts |