There has to be more from the Galaxy

I read an authorless column from the Los Angeles Times this morning about how the moves made by the Los Angeles Galaxy were much ado about nothing because the team draws about 20,000 fans per game and the television ratings aren’t stellar.

I’m not sure that’s the point. Major League Soccer has mostly followed a slow-growth business strategy since its inception because it knew it wouldn’t surpass the NFL no matter what Fox News tells you about Colin Kaepernick. At some point, MLS might get ambitious and try to pass the NHL, but where club soccer ranks on the national landscape hasn’t been a factor.

Instead, Tuesday’s moves for the five-time champions appeared to be much ado about nothing because there is nothing to suggest the team will be any better next year. Even worse, it’s hard to tell if the team will qualify for the playoffs next year. Ultimately, that’s what matters to those 20,000 fans per game — which, I might add, is an attendance average that exceeds at least three Major League Baseball teams.

New coach Curt Onalfo is probably a good idea, despite what the afore-mentioned column suggests. True, the Galaxy have excelled at attracting internationally known soccer commodities. In my eyes, though, the least important star should be the coach. The U.S. men’s national team tried that approach with Jurgen Klinsmann and it didn’t exactly help.

In addition to four seasons as an MLS coach, Onalfo has served as the Galaxy’s USL coach. “Los Dos,” as fans like to call the team, has played pretty efficient soccer. To me, letting him run the big club is a sign of continuity. The Galaxy have earned that right to ask for fans’ trust there.

But the incoming players so far are underwhelming, at best. It seems to me the Galaxy have a trustworthy defense that doesn’t need addressing. Midfield and forward, though, are cringe-worthy at the moment. We already know about the departures of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, Steven Gerrard and Nigel De Jong. What might be under the radar for fans is that dependable scorers Mike Magee and Alan Gordon are no longer under contract, either.

The Galaxy acquired the rights to two midfielders yesterday. Jermaine Jones is a name MLS fans have heard of. He’s also a 35-year-old reserve. Miguel Aguilar is a guy who couldn’t regularly crack the lineup for his last MLS team. It’s hard to believe either of them will make an impact.

The team has two designated player slots for next year. For the uninitiated, it’s basically a way to circumvent the salary cap to acquire top-level talent. The rule was created so that the Galaxy could add David Beckham back in the day.

The sooner those slots get filled, the more likely we’ll be impressed.

There has to be more… Shouldn’t there? 

Galaxy seeks continuity with Vagenas

About two days ago, it hit me that Monday’s “press conference about the Galaxy” had to include a front office hiring. I would have updated my blog, but hey, football.

It’s somewhat common for sports franchises to call press conferences without being specific. The idea is to get the press gossiping and create buzz. The problem is, with mass layoffs coming in waves in print journalism, there aren’t that many people to buzz about anything, especially pro soccer in America.

Anyway, former Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas was named general manager Monday, replacing Bruce Arena, who left to rescue the United States men’s national team from the abyss. Vagenas previously oversaw much of the Galaxy’s operations, from youth academies to the big club. The promotion feels like the right thing to do.

Vagenas’ first step is to find a manager who can get more out of the roster than smugness. There was a perception by MLS fans that the Galaxy underachieved the last two seasons. If continuity is a goal, Vagenas already knows Dave Sarachan is off the market. The assistant quit with an eye on joining expansion LAFC next year. That leaves Curt Onalfo of the Galaxy’s lower-level affiliate, nicknamed “Los Dos.” Onalfo has previous MLS experience with Kansas City and Washington D.C.

Where it gets uniquely curious is the roster. The Galaxy had been adept at luring foreign superstars — albeit at the back end of their careers — to the U.S. Arena was presumably their salesman for that. What could Vagenas offer in a rumored bidding war with two other MLS clubs for Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira?

The Galaxy lost two, possibly three, offensive weapons in the last month. Steven Gerrard retired and Robbie Keane is looking elsewhere. Vagenas’ first call might be to gauge Landon Donovan’s interest in continuing his comeback.

Ultimately, the path might depend on how much growth Vagenas saw in their academy teams. FC Dallas tried a similar approach and became surprisingly powerful. The question then becomes if youth — with Emmanuel Boateng and Gyasi Zardes — are what gets matched with midfielder Giovani Dos Santos. Arena never could solve the conundrum of matching Dos Santos with Gerrard and Keane. Perhaps speed becomes more valuable than guile.

It’d be nice to read something hopeful about the Galaxy soon

I don’t expect opinions on Major League Soccer to lead to a spike in page views, but I find the LA Galaxy right now to be far more interesting — and troublesome — than anything social media has to say about the president-elect. That would be because I know virtually everybody’s opinion on the president-elect.

But what the hell is going to happen with the premiere franchise in MLS? I have no idea.

In less than two weeks, the winner of five MLS Cups — and possibly the only club that anyone overseas even notices about American soccer — lost two of its biggest names and its coach/general manager. One of those big names, striker Robbie Keane, is a former MVP and won three titles. Bruce Arena would have been in charge of filling multiple major holes in the roster, only he left Tuesday to rescue a confused and unmotivated United States national team.

We also have no idea if Landon Donovan, likely the greatest player in U.S. history, will return to the team or if he’s content having made a curtain call comeback so his family could see him play.

This is a talent drain both on the field and in the front office that couldn’t come at a worse time, especially after that foolish decision by the league to insert a second team in Los Angeles. Keep in mind: the league tried that before with Chivas USA and that team tanked so bad the league had to pay to keep the franchise afloat.

It’s hard to understate how important the Galaxy is to soccer in the United States. When the league struggled out of the gate more than 20 years ago, Galaxy owner Philip Anschutz purchased multiple teams to keep MLS afloat until it got its financial house in order. The Galaxy also brought welcome international attention to the league when it signed British legend David Beckham, which inspired average sports fans to give the team and soccer a chance.

Losing Arena, Keane, Donovan and Steven Gerrard is — admittedly on a much smaller scale — akin to the Pittsburgh Steelers losing Mike Tomlin, Ben Roethelisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. But for MLS, it’s a headache. It’s one thing for a signature franchise in the NFL to struggle. The NFL isn’t going anywhere if the Cowboys, Packers or Steelers stink for five years.

But MLS might become the fourth most-popular team sport if it continues to grow a fan base. In order to do that, simply put, the Galaxy can’t afford to suck.

The offseason isn’t particularly lengthy in MLS. Baseball ended at the start of this month. Opening day in the major leagues comes about a month after MLS kicks off.

The clock is ticking in Carson, Calif.

Major changes loom for the LA Galaxy

To say the pieces simply didn’t fit is an understatement. The names the LA Galaxy assembled were cornerstones for any franchise in Major League Soccer. The task was to mash as many cornerstones onto the pitch as possible.

The Galaxy couldn’t, after being eliminated from the Major League Soccer playoffs last week. Now, the marquee franchise of the league has no choice but to change.

I didn’t approach the subject last week because let’s face it: most of us were all worked up over the presidential election and its aftermath. But I’m tired of reading about that stuff, so here goes.

When the Galaxy first started playing a version of fantasy football instead of soccer, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The problem is that doing so suggests the franchise figured piling on international stars would simply overwhelm the rest of a league full of North Americans. As international fans will tell you, every continent has a fundamental different style of play. European clubs don’t play the same as South American clubs, for instance. Here in North America, the Galaxy took a sort of European/Mexican/American approach and as a consequence, I think there was little cohesion.

Put another way: Who was the go-to guy for the Galaxy? Robbie Keane? Giovani Dos Santos? Jelle VanDamme? Steven Gerrard? Hell, was it Landon Donovan with his brief comeback?

Consistently successful franchises have a plan, find the talent to fit the plan, and execute. The Galaxy was that type of franchise. Now it isn’t, so it’s incumbent upon the front office to simplify. Change is necessary.

Gerrard is likely the first to go. The former Liverpool midfielder suggested as much in a social media post that stated he will miss the city of Los Angeles. I don’t hate Gerrard. Seems like a great guy. He’s right. He didn’t fit.

This may sound absurd, but I think Keane might be next. He’s a free agent and the former MVP has suffered significant injuries the past two years.

The gut feeling is the team might purge older players and rebuild the team around Dos Santos, who is entering his physical prime, is among the leaders of a pretty damn good Mexican National Team and as a Latino, would blunt the competition for fans that expansion team LAFC will try to swipe.

A Galaxy team that returns next season with a healthy Gyasi Zardes with Emmanuel Boetang becomes lightning quick on offense, instead of one that chooses moments to counterattack. And an effective designated player signing, perhaps at midfield, would make up for the losses of two Europeans who are past their prime. Perhaps if Donovan is committed to a full offseason of training, that would be the guy to take.

I wouldn’t change a thing on defense. The Galaxy was effective there.

In the meantime, time’s a-wastin.’ Anyone who thinks the seasons in baseball or basketball is long hasn’t seen enough soccer to understand that we’ll be talking MLS sometime after Valentine’s Day.

The week in L.A. sports (8/12/16-8/18/16)

I didn’t post about SoCal sports last week because I was too busy ripping the flesh from my ankles in New York. I averaged 10 miles per day in dress shoes, despite the subway system. I don’t know how women do it in heels. I really don’t.

On the plus side, I learned that my blog needs focus to grow an audience. What type of focus? No idea. So there’s that.

What happened with our favorite teams over the last week? Glad you asked:

Dodgers: The boys in blue took over first place in the last couple of days, which is nice but — and I have daily arguments with people about this — the point is not to win the division. The point is to win the World Series. And this team is unlikely to do that.

Consider these excellent points brought up by the Los Angeles Times on the Dodgers pitching staff.

As a side note, you’ve likely never heard of Joe Davis because Los Angeles doesn’t get to watch Dodgers games on TimeWarner SportsNet, but he’s apparently the heir apparent to Vin Scully — on a year-to-year basis. Davis is a 28-year-old self-described “broadcasting nerd.” Seems nice enough. He currently works with a partner on Dodgers road games, last night with Orel Hershiser.

Davis doesn’t live in Southern California, though, which makes me wonder: If he’s such a broadcasting nerd, wouldn’t you want to hang with Scully for a while?

Rams: More than 90,000 people went to the LA Coliseum to watch an exhibition football game. That’s how stupid the NFL was for not bringing a team here earlier. Angelinos missed football so much that 90,000 of them were willing to leave the Coliseum after the game into that funnel of broken dreams known as the USC parking lot.

Damn, last time I was there for a crowd that big, it was for a Rolling Stones concert. It took more time to leave the parking structure than Mick and the boys spent on stage.

The Rams won with fourth stringers in the fourth quarter, which isn’t good.

An inspired thought from CBSSports.com: Coach Jeff Fisher isn’t as good at assembling a team as you think.

Galaxy: The team has struggled to score recently as its lineup has been missing Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes. LA escaped Colorado with a 1-1 result. Keane returns to action when the team travels across the country to take on New York City FC at Yankee Stadium tomorrow.

Lakers: Nick Young appears to be done with the team, not by his choice. The guy, who in his defense was the victim of the D’Angelo Russell videoclip prank in the spring, has actually attempted to mend fences with the teammate who stabbed him in the back. It doesn’t matter. Russell was the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, and he’s Nick Young. The Lakers can’t find a trade partner. The talk now is that Young will simply be cut.

Meanwhile, the Lakers also signed Yi Jianlian from China. He was a draft bust from 2007. The No. 6 overall pick played 272 games over five seasons, first with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Clippers: Paul Pierce said he will return for a 19th NBA season, according to the Orange County Register.

Kings: People love lists, so the NHL Network created a time killer, “Top 20 Defensemen in the Game Now.” Drew Doughty is No. 1. Not a bad choice.