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2016 Western Conference Preview LA Galaxy

They've got some great talent. They got a cut rate deal on some European castoffs. Is this what takes Bruce Arena's team back to the MLS Cup in 2016?

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

LA Galaxy

2015 Record:

14-9-11 (W-T-L), 51 points, 5th in the Western Conference

2015 Goals For:

56, 4th in MLS

2015 Goals Against:

46, 11th in MLS

2015 Key Statistic:

Home Record 12-3-2, Road Record 2-6-9

Key Additions:

Dan Kennedy, Jelle Van Damme, Ashley Cole, Nigel De Jong

Key Subtractions:

Omar Gonzalez, Juninho

What they have going for them:


The name fits. With Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Jelle Van Damm and Nigel De Jong, this team has a crap-ton of Galacticos with World Cup and UEFA Champions League experience on its roster. With Gyasi Zardes and Sebastian Lletget, they have rising young players. Robbie Rogers was the best left back in MLS, and with be switching to right back to make room for Cole. This team will probably score in buckets, and will be fun as hell to watch, especially if a full season of Gerrard, Keane and Dos Santos can gel.


After struggling with contract problems for first string GK Jaime Penedo, the Galaxy saw their hopes to repeat as MLS Cup champs dashed when Donovan Ricketts was terrible in the team's playoff matchup against Seattle Sounders. That position was solved with the addition of Dan Kennedy, who spent most of his career at StubHub Center with the now-defunct Chivas USA. He can keep this team in games they blew last year and should organize the back line to boot.

Nigel De Jong is on the club for 2016. He's played around 350 club matches for the best teams in Europe, and has 80 caps for the national team of the Netherlands (the Dutch national team? Holland? Is it really fair for one country to have three completely different names? I don't think so.) He's still, despite playing on a struggling Milan team right now, one of the top holding midfielders on the planet. If the biggest problem for the 2015 Galaxy was that Steven Gerrard didn't get back and defend, De Jong almost certainly solves that. This team could be ridiculously, dominantly, scarily good.

What's Troubling?


Look at this.

...

That's the Galaxy lineup, by age.

Steven Gerrard is 35 years old. Ashley Cole is 35, too. Van Damme will turn 33 this season. Robbie Keane will be 36. Nigel De Jong is 31. That lineup above is 330 years old, averaging 30.0 years old a player. And this team still thought adding Mike Magee, age 31 and off two straight seasons of serious injury, and Jeff Larentowicz, who turns 33 in August, was a good idea. The team is probably somewhat safe with some talent stashed in their USL LA Galaxy II team - the Galaxy Academy is probably second only to FC Dallas' in depth and quality, and yet it should still be a concern that this team had only one pick in the whole 2016 SuperDraft. ExtraTime Radio pointed out that with no picks to make in rounds 1 and 2, the Galaxy FO team in Baltimore ordered chicken wings in the first round and left before the second. That's not a joke.

That age thing becomes seriously worrisome when you look at how bad this team was on the road in 2015: 2 wins, 6 draws, 9 losses. Playing games across the country; on turf; at altitude; in Houston's muggy heat... that's hard on a regular athlete. It must be brutal for an older one. Despite what we often think about their quality, the reality is that every player on an MLS team is an elite athlete. The margins between the teams are really very small, and little things like age and jet lag are real, and become magnified when they get multiplied across many positions on the team.

And then there's injuries. What are the odds that this collection of geriatrics will all be healthy at the same time? The Galaxy need to hope and pray that this collection of ‘experience' can stay off the training table. Because although I praised the depth this team may possess, I don't think an irregular lineup that bounces from De Jong and Gerrard to Mendiola and Jeff Larentowicz is going to win the league.

This team is creaky and old, and it could spell disaster for them. Of course, I basically said the same thing last year, and the Galaxy made the playoffs.

Lastly, whether Ashley Cole has anything at all left in the tank is a good question.

AJ DeLaGarza and Dan Gargan can slot in at right back and send Rogers to left back, no problem. But I assume Cole came from AS Roma to LA to get playing time. He was dumped from Chelsea in 2014 when the team concluded his skills had seriously declined. Roma was paying him this season to not play at all, so bad was his form at the end of the 2014/2015 campaign. If he isn't up to par, the Galaxy might be playing a lot of games that end 3-2, 4-3, or worse.

2015 Forecast:


I think this is Bruce Arena's last hurrah - he retires at season's end, along with Gerrard, Keane, Magee and Cole. He'd like to go out a champ, but I think he'll have to settle for another good playoff run and a seventh-consecutive CONCACAF Champions League berth. Expect them to be 2nd or 3rd in the Western Conference, and make a run to the semi-finals of MLS Cup. However, with a deep team, good young talent, and the ability to peak while Mexican teams are exhausted at the end of the Liga MX Clausura, the LA Galaxy might win the first CCL Cup by an MLS side.