LOS ANGELES – It’s no exaggeration to say an era has come to an end at the LA Galaxy. While Steven Gerrard’s departure drew more of the big international headlines, Robbie Keane’s decision to follow Gerrard out the door is much more significant.
After six years, 100+ goals and three MLS Cup titles, Keane leaves the Galaxy as the most successful Designated Player in the history of Major League Soccer. The Irish striker was a central figure in the team that’s been the most dominant in MLS since the turn of the decade.
With Landon Donovan also expected to resume his retirement, the Galaxy is a team in need of a new identity. The obvious thing to do would be to rebuild the team around its one remaining DP, Giovani Dos Santos. The Mexico forward led the Galaxy in goals and assists this season, and this was in spite of a tendency to visibly defer to Keane and Gerrard when they were on the pitch.
If the Galaxy make Gio the undisputed “top man” next season, it will be interesting to see what havoc a fully unleashed Dos Santos could wreak on the rest of the league.
And it’s not as if Gio is the only component the Galaxy has to work with. Jelle Van Damme, the standout defender in MLS this season, remains onboard, as do Gyasi Zardes, Sebastian Lletget and promising keeper Brian Rowe. Emanuel Boateng also had an impressive debut season with the club and could prove a central figure in the Galaxy attack next season.
With Keane, Gerrard and assistant manager Dave Sarachan all having already departed, there is likely to be more turnover at the Galaxy. What will become of other aging members of the team like strikers Alan Gordon and Mike Magee? Will the rumors prove true about manager Bruce Arena returning to the national team as a replacement for Jurgen Klinsmann?
And what of the two DP spots vacated by Keane and Gerrard? Rumors persist about a move for Wayne Rooney, who on the surface seems the archetypal Galaxy DP signing; aging England player, starting to struggle in Europe, looking for new horizons and a chance to soak in the SoCal lifestyle.
Rooney’s Manchester United teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic is another frequently mooted possibility. The 35-year-old Swede has not found scoring goals in the Premier League to be quite as easy as he expected. Zlatan likes to present himself as the “lord of the manor” and a return to a league he could more easily dominate, as he did in France with Paris Saint-Germain, might be more to his liking than struggling for goals in a United team currently languishing in mid-table.
Then there are the dark horse rumors about Galaxy lining up a move for the likes of Cesc Fabregas or Luka Modric. While unsubstantiated at this point, it’s a fact that Fabregas is out of favor at Chelsea and that the Premier League club has already signed off on the possibility of a loan move for him this January. Could that loan be to the Galaxy?
At 29, Fabregas seems the sort of DP signing MLS should be gravitating toward. A World Cup winner, still in his prime (or just about anyway), Fabregas pulling the strings for an attack spearheaded by Dos Santos and/or Rooney or Ibrahimovic would be a fearsome proposition.
While Galaxy remain in need of a player to bring balance to the midfield following the unceremonious dumping of Nigel de Jong, LA, it’s easy to forget, had the second-best defense in MLS this season. Even without big marquee signings, a smart acquisition here and there, a bit of Targeted Allocation Money splashed around in the right places, and we could be easily looking at the beginning of a new era in Galaxy dominance over MLS.
With the winter transfer window set to open in just over a month’s time, be prepared to see some activity from the five-time MLS Cup champs who could be in the market for a new manager in addition to the two DP signings they’ll be expected to make in the coming year.
Written by Alex Baker. Photos by ISI.