By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Jan 10, 2018) US Soccer Players - With three signings at the start of the week, the LA Galaxy has seen its roster grow. A total of 20 players are now part of the squad with the start of the preseason not too far off. The team seems to be coming together.
As it stands, that's a worrisome thought. While the players brought in fill needs, especially David Bingham who is the only goalkeeper on the roster, there is still one glaring hole that needs addressing. Who is going to score goals this year for the LA Galaxy?
Goalscoring has never really been an issue for the Galaxy, but the days of Cobi Jones and Carlos Ruiz, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane are in the past and so too is the club’s successful days. The Galaxy scored 45 goals 2017, ahead of just two Western Conference teams. Sporting Kansas City, who had the league’s stingiest defense, was one of them.
Since MLS went to a 34-game schedule in 2011, the Galaxy’s 45 goals were the fewest the club has scored in one season. The Galaxy had a fewer goals-per-game average in 2009 than 2017 (1.2 in ’09 versus 1.32 a year ago). However, the Galaxy also reached MLS Cup in 2009 and allowed 31 goals in 30 games that season as well.
Problems exist, and the club’s roster leaves doubts. Will the Galaxy address the attack or enter the 2018 season with what they already have? What they have provides both hope and frustration.
Romain Alessandrini led the club in goals with 13 and 12 assists in his first season in LA. However, Alessandrini did that from the midfield. The club’s strikers were woeful in finding the back of the net. Giovani Dos Santos, who can also play in the midfield, scored just six goals, three of them from the penalty spot. Bradford Jamieson IV had three goals while Gyasi Zardes and Jack McBean contributed two goals apiece. McBean is gone, but the rest of those forwards return.
Zardes is perhaps the great big hope and given his prior output that would seem justified. In 2014, Zardes scored 16 goals and seemed primed for a breakthrough. In three seasons since, though, he has not matched his output from then, scoring six goals in each of the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Now, injuries have robbed him of some playing time, but in his last 6,045 minutes for the club, Zardes has scored 14 goals. That's an average of one goal every 431 minutes. At that rate, he would score seven goals this year if he played every minute of every game.
While Zardes has struggled, there is reason to be optimistic. He enters the year injury-free. He was among the 30 players called into USMNT camp by interim coach and former Galaxy assistant Dave Sarachan. If all goes well, he should enter the preseason in fine shape. Of course, Zardes hurt himself while with the USMNT last year, delaying his return to the Galaxy.
There is a level of uncertainty there with Zardes. If the Galaxy bank on the hope that he will score 16 goals again, that seems at best a risky proposition. Gio Dos Santos’s form could either help or hinder Zardes this season, but that is just another level of uncertainty for the Galaxy coaching staff.
Addressing striker need by bringing in a foreigner seems to be the most logical choice. The likeliest reason why the Galaxy has not gone that route already has to do with the lack of a Designated Player spot. Alessandrini takes up one DP spot while Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos take up the remaining two.
The Galaxy can't make the same type of splashy moves that city rivals LAFC did. The expansion club brought in Mexican international Carlos Vela and prized prospect Diego Rossi from Uruguay. Nor can the Galaxy move on one of the rumored targets from last summer in Andre-Pierre Gignac from Tigres or Dario Benedetto from Boca Juniors.
There have been offseason reports speculating whether the Galaxy would make a move on an already-established MLS player, such as Columbus’ Ola Kamara. So far the Galaxy has not been active in the league’s trade market, save for bringing in Bingham from San Jose to play goalkeeper.
The Galaxy did make another deal this week in sending allocation money to DC United for the rights to Perry Kitchen. He returns to MLS after spending time with Scottish side Hearts and Danish side Randers FC. Although he is certainly talented, Kitchen is another midfielder. The Galaxy already has plenty. Jonathan Dos Santos, Alessandrini, Baggio Husidic (who recently re-signed with the club), Sebastien Lletget (recovered from an injury that robbed him of most of 2017), Servando Carrasco (acquired in the MLS Re-Entry Draft), Joao Pedro, and Emmanuel Boateng.
The Galaxy could field two different four-man midfield units from that group and be fine, but the same does not go for the forward line.
Another possibility would be the SuperDraft. The Galaxy picks second in the SuperDraft, scheduled for January 19. The draft’s effectiveness though is seemingly waning. Last year’s first overall pick, Minnesota’s Abu Danladi, scored a respectable eight goals in 27 matches. The second pick, Miles Robinson of Atlanta, did not play one minute in league play.
Still, there are prospects available to the Galaxy. If the Galaxy expects a striker to come in and score double-digit goals and give the team a much-needed boost up front, the club’s hopes would certainly be misguided.
However the Galaxy finds a striker, whether it is through a revitalized Zardes or Giovani Dos Santos, or bringing in a player via trade, transfer, or the draft, they need to find an answer up top. Without a solution, this team could be mired toward the bottom of the table yet again.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
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