By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Jan 2, 2019) US Soccer Players - It is now officially 2019 and with the New Year comes the chance to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. For MLS teams, the slate-wiping has been going on for a bit. With the calendar changing, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. All this change is really going to happen. Just how all of the changes within clubs like the LA Galaxy and LAFC moves from theory to practice is the question.
No fear, though. Through our crystal ball we have secured some insight into what the 2019 MLS season will look like for both the Galaxy and LAFC.
Prediction: Guillermo Barros Schelotto will win MLS Coach of the Year
The Galaxy’s brand new head coach will come in with high expectations and will meet them, mostly. Part of why Barros Schelotto will win Coach of the Year is the affection many around the league had for him during his playing days.
Barros Schelotto was a fantastic player for Columbus in the middle of last decade. He came in as a seemingly over-the-hill midfielder but instead was one of the best signings in league history, helping Columbus win MLS Cup. Having a player like him return to as a head coach gives him the chance to influence on the league but in a different way.
He's the second Latino coach in Galaxy history. Octavio Zambrano guided the team from June 1997 through April 1999. Barros Schelotto brings a different perspective and approach than his predecessors. That will make the Galaxy an intriguing club to follow.
Prediction: LAFC will lead the league in goals in 2019
LAFC nearly accomplished that in 2018, scoring 68 goals to Atlanta United’s 70. Two things though will help push LAFC to the top. Atlanta lost coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino and replaced him with Frank De Boer. While that alone is certainly an intriguing hire, the club will take a different approach without Martino around. It’s possible that De Boer’s tactics might keep Atlanta at the top of the league but change always brings with it a transitional period. That might mean lower-scoring games for Atlanta.
Also, LAFC will have Adame Diomande around for an entire season. Diomande joined LAFC over the summer, limited to just 18 games but still scored 12 goals. Over the course of a full season, that would amount to 22 goals, a figure that could put him in contention for the league’s scoring lead. With Carlos Vela (14 goals) and Diego Rossi (12 goals) back, LAFC will have three players hit double digits in goals again and surpass Atlanta and all others with most goals in the league in 2019.
Prediction: Romain Alessandrini will depart the Galaxy in January and Giovani Dos Santos will follow in June
The Galaxy enters 2019 with four Designated Players on its roster. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic receiving a pay raise for 2019, the Galaxy has its three DPs from a year ago. Alessandrini will find himself on the outs at the start. Te Kloese does have ties to the other two DPs - brothers Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos.
Giovani will get a reprieve because of his relationship with te Kloese. It is clear te Kloese believes in Giovani, as the player made his way onto Mexico’s World Cup roster last summer. That will only last so long. Dos Santos will perform as he has for the last two seasons, very little. Te Kloese will not justify his spot on the team, particularly with both te Kloese and Barros Schelotto likely eyeing DP-caliber players from Latin America.
Prediction: The LA Galaxy will reach the playoffs
Okay, that by itself goes over like a lead balloon, so here is a clearer view from the crystal ball. The Galaxy will be in contention for the Supporters’ Shield but will narrowly miss out and will settle for 3rd-place in the Western Conference table.
The club is not messing around. Two consecutive playoff misses is embarrassing enough for the Galaxy. Three is downright unacceptable. The team took steps to rectifying that after the 2017 season but it was not enough. A new general manager, a new coach, and new players including the return of fan favorite Juninho will help give the team a new approach and outlook. This team will develop and look different than the teams that dominated the league early this decade, but it will return to prominence in 2019.
Prediction: LAFC will get its first-ever win over the LA Galaxy and win the regular-season series between the two clubs
The win will come at Dignity Health Sports Park (nee StubHub Center) and it will be a tight contest. A true rivalry can only become one if both sides land meaningful blows against the other. LAFC has yet to do that to the Galaxy. Although, had the Galaxy gotten more than one point in either of the draws against LAFC a year ago, the Galaxy would have reached the playoffs. A meaningful blow means victories against the other, not draws. LAFC will get that against the Galaxy in 2019 and the rivalry will take off from there. Now if only the horrendous name of El Trafico would go away.
Prediction: The LA Galaxy will get the last laugh against LAFC in 2019
LAFC will not be as strong during the regular season in 2019 as it was in its expansion season and will finish in sixth place. That means the clubs will line up against one another at Dignity Health Sports Park for a one-off first-round matchup. With all playoff series now changing to a one-off format, the playoff meeting then will be a full-scale 90-minute battle.
The Galaxy will use its displeasure of not having won the season series as motivation to win the match, which it will, and will advance to the conference semifinals against 2nd-seeded Seattle. While LAFC’s accomplishment of beating the Galaxy and claiming the season series will bring joy, it will ultimately become just a sad footnote on what will otherwise be a forgettable second season for the club.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
More From Luis Bueno :
- 5 things for LAFC and the LA Galaxy
- Liga MX and the Club World Cup letdown
- Dennis te Kloese, Zlatan, and the 2019 LA Galaxy
- MLS Power Rankings: The 2018 MLS season
Logos courtesy of LAFC and the Galaxy