By Jeff Kassouf
It really was inevitable. The Los Angeles Galaxy has the world’s eyes fixed upon them with icon David Beckham, and they are spiraling downward yet again. Entering Thursday’s fixture with bitter rival Chivas USA, the Galaxy is winless in its last seven and is now looking up in the Western Conference, where they sat in first place just weeks ago. As with any sports organizations, somebody has to take the fall.
Ruud Gullit has resigned as head coach, and GM Alexi Lalas has been shown the door after approximately two years at the helm. These changes are meant to shake things up and send a message that the current form of the team is unacceptable, and to an extent they certainly do that.
However, the problem with Los Angeles is on the field, and until that gets solved the same results may continue to come forth. Even the casual MLS fan knows that LA is loaded up top with the likes of Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, and of course David Beckham. The backline, however, has been sacrificed for this fire-power.
As many of analysts have pointed out, the Galaxy has no “spine,” as they are not built from the middle out. The centerback pairings have consisted of mixes of Troy Roberts, Sean Franklin, Greg Vanney, newcomer Eduardo Dominquez and Abel Xavier, who is no longer with the team. The constant rotation has been necessary in order to try to find something that works, but nothing really has.
Franklin has shown solid potential in his rookie season, and Troy Roberts still looks inexperienced and slow to progress. Greg Vanney has lost a step to say the least, and Eduardo Dominguez seems to be slow as well. And then, of course, there is the goalkeeper position.
Steve Cronin simply is not of starting goalkeeper quality. Yes, he is young and needs to gain experience, but he has consistently made mistakes throughout the season that have directly caused many goals. He has very minimal help in front of him, but he certainly does not help the situation.
The next step for the Galaxy, now that management has shown it has had enough, is to solidify the backline. Cory Gibbs is officially back with Major League Soccer, but nobody seems to really know what team will be getting him. Interestingly enough, Los Angeles owns his rights, but could choose to pass for Eddie Lewis, who is looking to return to MLS as well.
This move would certainly leave many feeling quizzical, as the LA needs all the help it can get in the back. At the very least, a move has to be made to bring in an experienced goalkeeper and at least give him a shot at the starting job, since Cronin just is not getting the job done. Who that would be remains the question.
Someone like Zach Thornton would be ideal for a little one year stint to temporarily mend the situation, but with Chivas now Brad Guzan-less they will surely be looking to hold onto him. Should the Galaxy finally ship out the long rumored to be out of favor Carlos Ruiz, they could certainly get a package deal for him that could include a decent goalkeeper, such as – hypothetically – Nick Rimando. Real Salt Lake may be willing to deal the almost-thirty year old with their young-gun Chris Seitz clearly being a part of their future.
Either way, nobody in the City of Angels can simply settle for Gullit and Lalas being the only changes. Improvement is needed on the field and particularly in the back, and the most obvious choice for a place to start would be bringing in a defender or a goalkeeper in exchange for the overpaid Carlos Ruiz, if there are any takers. Whether the Galaxy use their allocation on Gibbs or Lewis, it will improve the team, but still not enough to make LA a championship contender, which is all that anyone truly cares about. Who knows, maybe Cobi Jones can spark some life into the team – as the coach, that is (yes, that does sound strange to be saying already).
Jeff Kassouf is a staff writer for The New Paltz Times and a freelance writer who covers soccer, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org