MLS Season XIII is finally upon us. For Los Angeles Galaxy, the 2008 MLS Season provides an opportunity to return to glory. Once viewed as royalty in the growing league, two seasons without the playoffs have left the team, the players, and the fans asking themselves where this team lost its way and how to return to its original path.
Alexi Lalas made it a point that while this team has an obligation to rebuild, its traditions and the demanding fans of the city of Los Angeles do not allow for 'rebuilding years.' Changes must be made that accomplish the often conflicting objectives of developing youth for the long run and ensuring the team's immediate success in the upcoming season. At the close of the last season, it was evident to everybody that this team needed a face-lift fit for the stars living a few miles down the 110 after which the team is named. And so the procedure began, perhaps by making the most noteworthy move in the team's history: a heart transplant.
- Cobi Jones: The 12 year veteran announced before last year that he'd be hanging up his boots and leaving the club. He was partially correct. After having retired as a professional footballer, #13 was granted the opportunity to return to the field, this time along the sidelines. Cobi will serve as assistant manager to the man brought on to take charge of the team:
- Ruud Gullit: The man with the spider on his head became the newest manager for the team from Victoria Street. Out goes Frank Yallop, the mild mannered manager who seemed to top the list of the people unable to deal with 'Beckhamania'. Gullit presents an impressive resume as a player, but his managing experience lacks the same level of clarity or quality. An FA Cup win at Chelsea, followed by his sacking with the club in second place have been the only bright points to date in his managerial career. After that, Ruud struggled at Newcastle United and was dropped after season from Feyenoord. Gullit is expected to be an authority who doesn't buckle at the knees before Beckham, and who brings an attractive, and dare I say it "sexy" brand of football that will restore the fans' confidence in their club.
- Who Are Ya?: Galaxy fans hope to be able to answer that question when they see numbers 24 and above this coming season. Gullit has made it a point to welcome drafted players by throwing them down the creek without a paddle. Fortunately, if pre-season is any indication, most of the rookies that have played for the team to date have shown raw talent and a quick understanding of Ruud's ways. With 3 players taking up most of the cap space, and the potential for all three of these players to be MIA on FIFA designated dates, the high numbers on this roster may end up being the MVPs for this club when all is said and done.
Piece by Piece
- Goalkeeping: Cannon said to Andrea Canales that he wanted to return to San Jose someday, and he got his wish. This left Galaxy with Steve Cronin all alone to man the pipes... or so he thought. Josh Wicks, formerly of the Portland Timbers, has come in to give Cronin a run for the starting spot, and the lot of us a bit of relief knowing that there's a decent option for goalkeeping on the bench should Cronin not be up for the challenge.
- Defending: If there will be any disappointment for Galaxy this season, smart money would dictate that it'll come from this line. Vanney, Klein and Xavier are going to have some serious challenges if they get people running behind them, and Mike Randolph has been shaky on the left side in the pre-season, as has newcomer Gavin. There's promise behind them to give the team depth in numbers, but not real MLS-tested depth. The retirement of Ty Harden and an injury to Ante Jazic left the team in a compromising position in the backline.
- Midfield: The team has depth at the central defensive midfielder position, a solid starter at right mid, but a real question arises in the left side. That aside, the team borrows from the backline's depth to make up for the lack thereof in the middle of the park. The new additions are Alvaro Pires and again, a number of rookies that are going to be thrown into a sink or swim situation.
- Forward: When Landon Donovan signed for Galaxy, Carlos Ruiz had to leave. Three years later, these two will be playing together for the first time. Along with Edson Buddle, Alan Gordon, and rookies Ely Allen and Brian Jordan, the Galaxy's strategy this season may be simple: Score more goals than your opponent's half-dozen.
Week One: Colorado Rapids -- Dick's Sporting Goods Park
If I were to list the scores of the last 10 regular season scores from Galaxy games at Colorado in order starting with the most recent, you'd have to wait until number 11 to see a Galaxy win.
The last Galaxy 'w' registered in a regular season match against the Rapids came in July 13, 2002. Since then, the Gs are 0-7-3 and have been outscored 13-3 by the mile high club. In fact, Galaxy have not scored a goal at the Rapids' home since a 1-1 draw in May 15, 2004, almost four years ago.
As if that didn't jinx things enough, Galaxy has not won a home opener since 2004. Falling 3-0, 1-0 and drawing 0-0 to Columbus, New England and Houston, respectively.
Simply put, if Galaxy opens the season with a win this Saturday, the team will have its best start in 3 years.
Beckham and Donovan will be rejoining the team in Colorado from their European participations with the English and American national teams on Wednesday.
Hammer's Projected Lineup:
And finally, here's to a good season.