Los Angeles Galaxy: 2007 Season Preview

MLSnet.com: 2006 Season Wrap
MLSnet.com: Big Questions after '06
My Thoughts on the Galaxy’s '06 (Know my biases)

2006-07 Off-Season Changes
Soccer New England’s Ins & Outs - (NOTE: this is the first and last time I’ll write the name “Beckham”; he’s already doing plenty off the field, but I’m not sold on what he’s going to do on it do on it until, oh, the playoffs; by that time, he’ll have found his feet and we should have a better idea of how he’ll adjust.)

Los Angeles Galaxy roster from MLSnet.com

And now, the Future...

Key Men
Landon Donovan - This one’s a little automatic - and Galaxy fans almost certainly have to be getting excited about what Donovan’s doing on the national team. In any case, odds are that if you’re reading this you know plenty about Donovan; on his day, he’s the league’s top player - and certainly the best American player - who can score, assist, run at defenders, pass intelligently and well, etc.

Joe Cannon - The odds of Cannon failing to perform are pretty low. But it will be a black eye to the Galaxy front office if the defense stumbles; after all, you don’t ditch a solid ‘keeper like Hartman only to slip. This one will bear watching.

Tyrone Marshall - I’ve always liked Tyrone and have long counted him among the league’s best central defenders (though he is, mysteriously, listed as a forward on the roster page). But as he creeps further into the wrong side of 30, one has to wonder whether he’ll lose a step or two. With Ugo Ihemelu gone, though, Marshall bears responsibility for continuity in the Galaxy defense and integrating the new guys.

Nate Jaqua/Santino Quaranta - One of these two needs to be that clichéd sports animal, “the difference-maker,” for this year’s Galaxy. A big-man/target-man (see: Ching, Brian 2nd half v. Ecuador) would probably bring more to the overall offensive equation, especially when He-who-must-not-be-named joins the team, which is why I view Jaqua as the likelier candidate. Hell, it could be Alan Gordon for all Galaxy fans care. Somebody needs to make this team more complicated in the attack.

Additional Assets
“Joe-Mentum” - This can be double-edged, to be sure, but no team has the same excitement around them this year as LA. I put it here because I think they’re up for the pressure; for all I know, it may give them an edge.

One-Step Away - I’m only emphasizing something here: if this team can find a second banana to complement Donovan in the offense, they’ll be very good. The defense is already there (they finished second in goals-against in ’06 and carried a wicked shutout streak through the middle of the summer), so they’re closer than one might think.

Depth - Like Houston and DC, the Galaxy not only has a busy year with SuperLiga and the U.S. Open Cup (which they’ll no doubt ditch), they keep adding silly shit to it, whether it’s the “World Series of Soccer” or what one suspects will be other exhibitions. Once you get away from the starters, the players get greener pretty quick - and that’s when the “Joe-mentum” upside may became a wearying spotlight. Another factor plays into this...

Call-Ups - The good news is that Trinidad & Tobago’s return to international play means that Tyrone Marshall and, possibly, Shavar Thomas won’t get called up to the Jamaican national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. But they’ll lose left-back Ante Jazic to Canada’s team (I think) for the Gold Cup and, between that tournament and the Copa America, they’ll certainly lose Donovan for one month and Chris Albright and, likely, Cannon for a month as well - though it might not be the same month.

That Road-Trip - MLS, in its quest milk He-who-must-not-be-named’s arrival for all it’s worth, will end the Galaxy’s season with a long, long road-trip. In all honesty, this is semi-unconscionable from a competitive stand-point.

Long story short, the multiple obligations, both competitive and commercial, will likely cause the problems the Galaxy has this season.

Balance - Sorry. I’m confusing myself here with the redundancies. In simple terms, this is basically the mystery point where “additional assets” end and “liabilities” begin.

Prospects - Using Gambling Analogies
Back to craps: whenever a shooter gets hot, it’s very easy to get over-extended. Sure, the more bets you have on the table, the more you collect so long as the shooter stays hot, but you’re also only one craps roll away from losing a truckload of cash. The Galaxy will make plenty of cash - even for teams around the league when they visit them; it’s not unlike the barnstorming concept of baseball’s early days. But you’ve got to wonder whether they won’t pay a price on the field for the cash they’re picking up off of it.

For all that, I’d be shocked if they missed the playoffs for a second consecutive year. An Columbus-sized injury bug could do it, but they’ve got a strong enough first eleven to break even where it counts - e.g. reaching the post-season.

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