The 2016 season ended prematurely in an early playoff exit for the LA Galaxy and signaled the end of an era. First the departure of Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena meant that the team would be elevating Curt Onalfo from USL Affiliate Galaxy II to the big club.
The roster would need to be restructured with the departure of of designated players Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard. Also Galaxy great Landon Donovan would be re-retiring truly changing the face of the franchise that had grown on his star power but was now going to go through a youth movement.
The first part of changing the roster and getting younger started out in the midfield. The Galaxy started by signing 23-year-old Joao Pedro who was playing with Vitoria Guimaraes in the Portuguese top flight. Next the team signed Romain Alessandrini away from Marseille, at 27 Alessandrini is supposed an upgrade over the aging Gerrard from last year. In the team’s recent exhibition games his pace has dazzled fans and pushed the Galaxy’s offense.
No one needs to look further for an obvious youth movement than the advancement of several players from the Galaxy II to roster to the parent club. The team signed five players to homegrown player contracts rounding out the remaining roster with players in need of development instead of high priced veterans.
It wasn’t just the kids that the Galaxy brought in, they also acquired U.S. National Team player Jermaine Jones in a draft day exchange with the Colorado Rapids. At 35 Jones may be a step slow for international competition but in MLS Jones still can put on the occasional dazzling display.
L.A. brings back star defender Jelle Van Damme who is now the team captain, he was a signing from last season that made an impact with the team and was named an MLS All-Star. The offense will look to the dynamic play of Mexican international Giovani dos Santos. Playing up front, dos Santos led the team in goals last year, the team is hoping his presence will convince his brother Jonathan dos Santos to sign with the team during the summer signing period.
Health and depth will ultimately decide how Los Angeles will do, towards the end of last season the team lost forward Gyasi Zardes severely limiting the offense. With their signings the club will be able to weather injury issues and occasional roster losses during international play.
Los Angeles can look forward to a lighter schedule than usual, no Champions League play this year or next and like all MLS teams they won’t enter the U.S. Open Cup competition until the fourth round. Games to watch out for will be rivalry games against both the San Jose Earthquake and Seattle Sounders. With expansion this year the Galaxy will play their first games in Atlanta and Minneapolis, against Atlanta United FC and Minnesota United FC.
This will be the Galaxy’s last year where they have Los Angeles all to themselves, as the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) start play in 2018. Fans can hope the transition will be smooth and the Galaxy continue to be an elite MLS club.