• Los Angeles Galaxicos?
But can they get there?
The MLS Re-Entry Draft, Phase II, went down Wednesday and the Los Angeles Galaxy came away with Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Sassano who they then parlayed into the Iron Lion, Frankie “The Haircut” Hedjuk.
After bumper-carring through 2010 with former greybeard USMNTers Gregg Berhalter, Jovan Kirovski and Chris Klein in varying roles, Bruce Arena and his national team friends are back to try it again with Hedjuk and Juan Pablo Angel, both of whom crested the peak of their careers years ago and are choo-chooing down the other side. Bad moves.
There is no more clearer statement made yesterday by the Galaxy than “Win now!” and there is no coach that will be under the tractor beam of the microscope than Bruce Arena.
In fact, you could argue that now that Arena has assembled a team–Arena convinced Juan Pablo Angel to come to New York in 2007 and Frankie Hedjuk was key cog in Arena’s 2006 World Cup (disaster)–that only he would. Arena won’t have to get buy-in for “his way” and there shouldn’t be any chemistry issues, but a look back at 2009 shows three hot button issues that Arena will have to confront….and that he failed to in 2009.
The Galaxy came out smoking to start the 2010 campaign. They were a pleasure to watch, but then Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle were called to World Cup duty and a chain reaction of events exposed the fraility behind LA’s best 11. With Donovan and Buddle gone, young UCLA stalwart Michael Stephens was keyed on by opponents and slammed–hard–into the rookie wall. To his interior, Juninho with Stephens faltering and Donovan absent had little room to work his linking magic and that only contributed to his inconsistency–inconsistency not to be unexpected from a 21-year-old player.
On the backline, the chain reaction continued as Gregg Berhalter went down and Omar Gonzalez had communication issues with Bruce Arena’s first choice replacement Leonardo. With more pressure on keeper Donovan Ricketts both through the backline and now with an offense unable to possess the ball as much, the elder keeper was exposed for being more ho-hum than awe inspiring, displaying a shocking lack of organization and clear slowing of his reaction time.
Result: A midseason swooning and inability to regain peak form.
Hand in hand with the first point, goes lack of adaptability and development. Let’s start with the latter.
In the beginning of the year last year, when the Galaxy were torpedoing opponents I mentioned that Arena had the luxury at that point of bringing along players like Cazumba, Tristan Bowen and Juninho. Arena, whether through lack of accompanying veteran guidance or one-game-at-a-time focus, did nothing of the sort.
As the the season wore on, Arena–in an eerie similarity to yesterday’s moves–went back to his tested veterans as the exclusive adjustment to right a mediocre vessel. Gone was Tristan Bowen–though admitedly injured frequently–from playing time. Cazumba? A late game defense replacment often at best.
In game–are you ready for this–Jovan Kirovski to play both midfield and forward. (Perhaps nowhere more than forward last year the Galaxy lacked depth–actually…certainly.)
In came Eddie Lewis to “fly” down the left flank.
Seattle series nonwithstanding Arena’s “veteran” moves often imploded on him rather than resulting in inspired play.
The Galaxy flailed. For a game that TSG was at in San Jose in August, a visibily and audibly frustrated side hollered at one another as passes led to turnovers….as offensive space for the Galaxy disintegrated…as teams recognized they could could outrace and-or outmuscle the Galaxy and that Arena would not make sufficient adjustments.
Which leads us to point three. Steel.
A late game loss at home to the Red Bulls saw a an overmatched Dema Kovalenko (clearly showing the season’s wear-and-tear) and Juninho can dominated by an average-at-best Rafael Marquez and youngster Tony Tchani.
The Galaxy severely lack steel in the midfield. A Jeff Larentowitz-type would be godsend, even a Dax McCarty a bonus. Though players of that ilk are likely unattainable now.
In 2011 when a team is owning the midfield, who will the Galaxy turn to as their defensive stopper? And further who can they get now with their current gaggle of players’ compensation is already abutting the salary the cap?
Perhaps Leonardo will get another run out with Omar Gonzalez and we’ll see AJ De La Garza as a central midfield defender (that’s probably Arena’s best current roster option). Will Frankie Hedjuk play an extremely deep lying midfielder-defender like were seeing Johnny Heiteinga play to such success with Everton in the EPL these days?
But these are Arena’s issues to confront in 2011 where–and we haven’t even talked about the potential of a Ronaldhino, the lack of a speed player up top, a potential Buddle move, or a potential Landon Donovan loan (Arena’s comments to the contrary yesterday nonwithstanding)–he’ll have a lot more to accomplish than he even did yesterday.
Here’s your early checklist for a 2011 MLS Cup raising experience Big Bruce and Los Angeles: (1) Develop depth or find it cheaply somewhere, (2) Get some steel in the midfield (3) be more experimental in the beginning of the season so you can adapt later on.
Update 12/16 12PM PST: Galaxy spokesperson says Bruce Arena expects to sign Edson Buddle to a new contract to be with team in 2011. (Not a complete denial of anything).
As we actually reported yesterday, the Los Angeles Galaxy confirmed that Edson Buddle was “in Birmingham” until “around the 22nd or so” of December.
When prompted by the question of whether it was training or a trial, TSG got a “no confirmation on whether it’s just training or a trial.” In media speak, that’s a non-denial of a trial in our mind. Why? Because if it was a training the team would look to make that public to ease fan issues (for peace of mind, perhaps season tickets). (In stark contrast, SportingKC laughed at the “mountain of the molehill” that was create with the Teal Bunbury-Stoke news and told us outright that Bunbury was “training” with Stoke City.)
So in our mind, Buddle’s on trial and the work permit thing will be figured out.
Perhaps that “trial” factored into the Juan Pablo Angel move yesterday. Either way, it would appear that the New Rochelle native is one player that the Galaxy can ill-afford to lose unless they have a Plan B already set in motion. As we mentioned during the Galaxy’s final game against the Union last year, Arena overused Buddle that game and down the stretch often sending him to battle two and even three players on the opponent’s defense for over the top ball.
You’re not going to find an easy replacement for the ability to combine that “targetness” with Buddle’s scoring prowess.
On Birmingham’s side of the ball, a Buddle move makes a ton of sense in our mind. Big man Cameron Jerome has disappointed this year, with only three goals on multiple chances (we’ve witnessed) and Serb Nikola Zigic is rumored to the apple of many a big club’s eye in the January window.
Edson Buddle price-tag in our mind? Somewhere between $2-4M.
Another addendum here to silly season…for now.
Update: A 2nd-hand BBC Report makes a trial seem to be the correct label as well.
Charlie Davies out today pleading for a chance to get on the pitch against Bordeaux this weekend.
I like that striker’s squawk. I really do. I like the bravado. I like the sense that they are the most important person on the pitch and they gain attention because it just heaps the pressure on them even more and the good ones like that even more.
But at this point our good friend Charlie, you’ve got to let your actions speak louder than words. Everyone’s still behind you–boneheaded speeding ticket move and all–we’re looking for an “I told you motherf*ckers” not a “Watch what I’m about to….”
Keep pushing though.
• And Now For Gooch?
TSG mancrushed Pastore re-ups–big time with Palermo through 2015 with a major $60M buyout escalation clause. Who’s the bidder? Barca? Real Madrid? in about a year?
Sadly enough, I’d love to see him and–gulp–Chelsea is he’s allowed the lattitude to control the flow of play. Can’t see that happening at Barca (Messi) or Real Madrid (Ronaldo)
Can miss a chance to showcase Pastore. Thanks to Eric Giardini on Twitter for the info.
And thank you VidRiver on YouTube…the Gonzalo Higuain Euro Music Train just dropped us off in Javier Pastore Hair Band Land! (Is that a Cat Stevens riff in the background…wow this video is just TOO AWESOME!)
Wait…wait…did someone just say….