By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (May 17, 2017) US Soccer Players - Earlier this week, Mexico released its roster for upcoming friendly matches against Croatia in Los Angeles on May 27 and Ireland in New Jersey five days later. One name not on the list was the LA Galaxy’s Giovani Dos Santos. Perhaps that was not surprising. The Galaxy play at San Jose on May 27 and at DC United on June 3, two critical matches as the club tries to climb the table.
Dos Santos made Mexico's preliminary roster for World Cup qualifiers El Tri will host on June 8 against Honduras and June 11 against the United States, He's also on the preliminary roster for the FIFA Confederations Cup. It may have been best to have left him off the team entirely.
The LA Galaxy is having an abysmal season in 2017 and Dos Santos is a big part of the team’s failure. Dos Santos is not scoring consistently, not generating enough offense, and not being a team leader. Those are hardly qualities worthy of playing for Mexico. Still, he is healthy and Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio apparently has enough faith in Dos Santos to believe the player will perform once he joins team.
A roster omission should be the appropriate fallout for one of the MLS’s most disappointing players in 2017. Dos Santos should be on par with other international stars around the league like Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti, or Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro. Those players are key components to their respective sides and playing like it. Dos Santos, and his three goals and one assists, has been key in name and expectation only.
The Galaxy placed their faith and financial resources in Dos Santos’s hands. Tipped as the heir apparent to Landon Donovan, Dos Santos should have become the focal point of the attack by now, his third season with the club. A year ago, it looked like that had happened. Dos Santos scored 14 goals and added 12 assists and had a standout statistical campaign. Still, he never seemed to be the ever-present scoring threat that Donovan was. Also, Robbie Keane was still around, and Keane was a force even though his playing time and health dwindled.
Amid a flurry of offseason roster changes, which included Keane’s departure from the club, Dos Santos suddenly became one of the club’s senior members. In the starting lineup the Galaxy used Sunday in New York, only three players have been with the Galaxy longer than Dos Santos.
Dos Santos has not yet taken control of this team. The Galaxy has thus far been lacking the leader the team has had in the past in Donovan and Keane. The emotional leader and the one who has been contributing to the attack the most is Romain Alessandrini, leading the team in goals (six) and assists (four).
Alessandrini has been a revelation for the Galaxy. The Frenchman has hit the ground running in MLS. His adjustment period was relatively smooth. Not knowing much about the league before joining the Galaxy this year, Alessandrini has scored goals in spectacular manner, finishing chances from distance and making stellar runs to get in position. The Galaxy’s attack is meager overall, with just 13 goals in 10 games, and Alessandrini has had a hand in 10 of those goals.
Dos Santos meanwhile has not been nearly as big of a part of the attack. Sure, he has three goals, but two have come off penalty kicks and the other was off a corner kick. Dos Santos has yet to score from the run of play. There are large stretches of games where he seemingly disappears and has few touches on the ball.
Tactically, Dos Santos has a similar problem as Donovan had. Is he a forward? Is he better suited in the midfield? Should he play wide? Those questions permeated throughout Donovan’s career with the Galaxy. The only difference is, wherever Donovan lined up, he contributed. Dos Santos seemingly struggles no matter his role.
Perhaps part of his struggles are due to the Galaxy’s coaching change. Bruce Arena ran the team his way. Curt Onalfo is trying to figure out his own way of things during the first season of his tenure as coach. There has been little stability in 2017 for this LA Galaxy side. Perhaps the club’s impressive 3-1 takedown of New York at Red Bull Arena on Sunday is a sign of things to come. Dos Santos played a bit more inspired in that match. He picked up his first assist of the season, setting up Alessandrini on the newcomer’s second goal of the match. Dos Santos also converted a late penalty to give the Galaxy an extra cushion.
The Galaxy’s midfield has plagued the team and part of that has been Jermaine Jones’s struggles to fit in. Jones injured himself during the Chicago Fire match on May 6. Without him, the Galaxy scored two goals in a come-from-behind 2-2 draw. They followed up with the win against the Red Bulls. Fellow midfielder Joao Pedro has been strong without Jones, but getting the best players in the lineup is part of the coach's job. Perhaps that has been the source of the Galaxy’s struggles and in turn Dos Santos’ as well.
Still, player changes and coaching changes should not affect a player of Dos Santos’ stature. Dos Santos needs to earn his multimillion dollar salary and his Designated Player tag. The Galaxy needs him to take hold of the team, put it on his back and carry it into playoff contention. Until that happens, Osorio and the Mexican Soccer Federation should look elsewhere for players.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
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