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2017 Western Conference Preview: LA Galaxy

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There have been a lot of changes for the LA squad in the offseason.

MLS: Conference Semifinals-Colorado Rapids at Los Angeles Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the L.A. Galaxy was one of our most difficult opponents. With the capability to score goals while shutting down the other team with their stout defense, it wasn’t easy to beat these guys (they tied the Colorado Rapids for least amount of losses in the entire league). I think everyone was glad when we knocked them out of the playoffs last year, because they had a good chance of contending for the MLS Cup.

But this offseason (and preseason) hasn’t been very kind to the Galaxy. Bruce Arena accepted the head coaching job with the U.S. Men’s National Team and took the coaching staff with him. Several key players were traded to other teams, retired, or are dealing with injuries. I think L.A. will still make the playoffs, but the other Western Conference teams will give them some tough competition.

L.A. Galaxy Preview for 2017

2016 Record: 12-6-16 (WLT), 52 points, 3rd in the Western Conference

2016 Goals For: 54 (4th in MLS)

2016 Goals Against: 39 (2nd least in MLS)

Key Stat for 2016:

It’s twofold: They scored a lot of goals and conceded very few. That’s a very good combination.

Key Additions:

Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Romain Alessandrini, (Marseille), João Pedro (Portugal)

Key Subtractions:

Alan Gordon (Colorado Rapids), AJ DeLaGarza (Houston Dynamo), Leonardo (Houston Dynamo), Steven Gerard (Retired), Robbie Keane (Free Agent/Dubai?), Mike Magee (Retired), Jeff Larentowicz (Atlanta United FC), Oscar Sorto (OCSC), Dan Kennedy (might become a TV analyst?), The Coaching Staff (Bruce Arena, Dave Sarachan, Pat Noonan, Kenny Arena and Matt Reis to USMNT)

What L.A. has going for them:

Despite a general upheaval in the offseason, L.A. Galaxy still has enough key players to make up a strong squad. With Giovani dos Santos leading the offense, Jermaine Jones/Emmanuel Boateng running the midfield, and Jelle VanDamme/Daniel Steres holding down the defense, they have a lot of potential. Brian Rowe is also returning, and he’s a goalkeeper that has gotten a little USMNT playing time since Arena took over. I’m a fan of Rowe, and I think he gets better every year.

Up top, it seems likely that Giovani dos Santos will pair up with Jose Villarreal. Villareal is a Homegrown player who seemed to have really earned his first team spot in 2015, but only appeared in three games for 17 minutes in 2016. Ariel Lassiter has also been getting some playing time in the forward position this preseason and could be in the mix, too. Zardes should be practicing within a couple weeks, so if all goes well, he will be back soon.

The addition of French midfielder Romain Alessandrini adds a threat from the wing, and signing Portuguese midfielder João Pedro gives them some depth in the midfield in case of injury (ahem Jermaine Jones). If Jermaine Jones can stay healthy, he is absolutely going to be a key player for L.A, both in terms of the leadership the team has lost with retirements and for his offensive skills.

Their coaching staff might be new, but they have some decent experience. New Head Coach Curt Onalfo comes from L.A. Galaxy II and in three seasons there, led the squad to three straight playoffs and won the 2015 USL Western Conference Championship. He comes with head coaching experience with DC United and Sporting Kansas City, as well as coaching experience with L.A. Galaxy in the 2011 and 2012 years. He was also an assistant coach with the US Men’s National Team. He brought in LA Galaxy II Assistant Coach Rob Becerra and Goalkeeper Coach Daniel Gonzalez, and the team also added Ante Razov from the Seattle Sounders as another assistant coach. For the most part, the new coaching staff is used to working together and knows the team philosophy, but whether the staff will click with the team is a whole different story.

What’s troubling:

Between losing their coaching staff to the USMNT and nine (!) players to other teams/retirement, the Galaxy have a lot of work to do to get everyone on the same page. The offense hasn’t really been clicking this preseason, but every team has some kinks to work out this time of year.

In 2017, L.A. will be missing some of their most valuable players in terms of leadership, experience, and fan favorites. The vibe that I get (and I could be wrong) is that the Galaxy have (at the most) betrayed some of their fan base, but at the very least, put a damper on fan excitement about the squad. If there are any L.A. fans out there reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the trades out (especially Gordon, DeLaGarza, and Larentowicz) and your thoughts on the Jones acquisition.

The bigger issue for the team is the injuries that are plaguing the Galaxy before the season has even started - Robbie Rogers is out indefinitely with complications due to a December foot surgery, Ashley Cole is out for at least a month with a calf strain, and Gyasi Zardes had arthroscopic knee surgery at the beginning of February.

While Head Coach Curt Onalfo is feeling positive about a rebuilt midfield (Romain Alessandrini, João Pedro, Jermaine Jones, and Sebastian Lletget), and has a plan for replacing the injured players (Dave Romney will likely replace Cole and Rafael Garcia should replace Rogers), questions remain about how it will all work out. Yes, they have a solid Starting XI, but injuries and depth are an issue.

And then there’s the ever-popular international call-up dilemma. Giovani dos Santos has started getting called up for Mexico, and then the possibility of Jones, Lletget, Zardes, and even Rowe getting called up for the U.S. knocks out a chunk of their starters. The team cut third-string goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, so that leave Clement Diop, who played two games last year and had three goals scored on him (though one of those goals was a penalty kick).

2017 Forecast:

Overall, I think L.A. has lost much more than it has gained, but I still consider them a potentially formidable opponent in 2017. This squad should make the playoffs, and I’m predicting 4th or 5th in the Western Conference.