League

01 January 3:32 pm

It’s that time again when we make our resolutions for the New Year in hopes of making our lives just a little bit better.

To properly ring in what promises to be an eventful 2014, I decided to make a list of LA Galaxy New Year’s Resolutions.  Now this list ranges from my own thoughts about what the team needs to a few other ideas on how to improve the team and MLS in the New Year.

* Build toward the future: continue to offer playing time to younger players like Jack McBean, Rafael Garcia and Greg Cochrane. One of the team’s greatest successes of 2013 was that head coach Bruce Arena afforded plenty of valuable game time to players like the three aforementioned youth. With international commitments and injuries likely to cause problems yet again, the Galaxy boss should continue his policy of giving time to emerging young talent. 

*Deal with change: There will be some notable absences from the LA Galaxy roster in 2013, but none will be bigger than the departures of longtime right-sided player Sean Franklin—who was selected in Stage One of the MLS Re-Entry Process by D.C. United—and Jose Villarreal who was sent on a year-long loan with Cruz Azul. Both players were frequent contributors a year ago and will need to be replaced in the coming weeks.

*Allow Juninho to receive more responsibility in the attack especially on free kick situations.  The Brazilian midfielder saw his offensive impact stunted in 2013, but he’ll be expected to carry more of the load next season especially on set piece opportunities.

*That being said, LA must show more resilience on defending set pieces and second ball opportunities to prevent the deficiencies that caused the club to fail last season. We've gone over this one many, many times.

*Find a new center forward to play alongside Robbie Keane to add a natural target striker to the Galaxy attack. During the club’s final media availability of 2013, Arena stated that finding this type of player was priority number one for LA ahead of the next campaign and with the transfer window open; the Galaxy will have the chance to get their man. With a target presence alongside Keane, Landon Donovan could transition back to the right midfield and offer greater width to the midfield.

*Build off what was learned in 2013: Continued production from Marcelo Sarvas and Jaime Penedo.  LA’s two breakout stars in 2013 were Marcelo Sarvas and Jaime Penedo who became regular members of the Galaxy starting XI by season’s end, but production must continue to progress into 2014. For Sarvas, he’ll likely need cede some of his offensive responsibilities to his midfield partner Juninho and contain his physical exuberance that caused him to lead MLS in fouls committed last year. Meanwhile, Penedo must continue to progress as a goalkeeper and cut down on mistakes that led to goals down the stretch.

*More professional growth from Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Rogers. The two attackers experienced inconsistent seasons in 2013, but the New Year brings greater expectations for both to provide reliable contributions for LA. If the pair can develop into offensive weapons, LA may have an added attacking dimension—particularly on the flanks— that was sorely lacking last season.

*Be more successful: Make a strong run in the U.S. Open Cup.  The LA Galaxy have gone out in the third round in the U.S. Open Cup to the Carolina RailHawks each of the last two years, but with no CONCACAF Champions League waiting for them in the fall, a long run in the Open Cup should be beneficial for the team to provide minutes to their entire roster.  Also, winning the USOC will help place the team back into the CCL for the 2015-16 tournament.

*Continue see the LA Galaxy Academy grow and produce players who could become valuable members of the first team in the future. LA Academy forawrd Haji Wright garnered a lot of the headlines toward the end of the year, but LA’s academy teams are continuing to show promise in the form of players like Adonis Amaya, Jaime Villarreal and many others.

*Good health to Robbie Keane who is recovering from surgery on both of his Achilles as he looks to get ready for the preseason. The Galaxy are hoping to have their captain back to full health by the start of preseason, but what is most important is having him fit and ready for the start of the season and the all-important CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal against Club Tijuana in March.

*Travel More: Get off to a strong start against Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal and keep dreams of the FIFA Club World Cup alive. The LA Galaxy’s quest for continental glory begins in March as they host the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals against Club Tijuana. With a victory at home, the Galaxy will be in strong standing as they look to advance past Xolos and reach the CCL semifinals for a second consecutive year in front of a hostile crowd at Estadio Calliente.

*Prosperity for Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan as they look to make their World Cup dream come true. Both Galaxy Designated Players appear to be strong candidates to make U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but both will need to stay healthy and in form to ensure a place on the plane to Brazil.  If they’re able to reach Brazil, the pair is likely to be in Klinsmann’s starting XI and can expect to be major contributors as the U.S. hopes to advance from Group G over the likes of Ghana, Portugal and Germany.  Here’s hoping for more moments like this one from four years ago.

*New ventures for the coming year: New MLS Television deals. Southern California is spoiled with the great Galaxy coverage on the Time Warner SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes, but in 2014, MLS will look to negotiate their new national television deals which will play a major role in the league’s growth going forward. More financial resources from national television partners can only help grow the league which hopes to be among the world’s best during the next decade.

*Continue to foster a connection with the readers of this blog and all content on LAGalaxy.com. What truly makes my job worthwhile is interacting with all of those that enjoy my work on the LA Galaxy Insider Blog and LAGalaxy.com, and in 2014, I hope to have greater interaction with you the readers so that we can place the type of content that you’re looking for on this space.

Happy New Year.

23 December 11:53 am

The LA Galaxy officially announced on Monday that they had loaned Homegrown forward Jose Villarreal to Cruz Azul for the 2014 MLS season.

Villarreal was presented alongside fellow MLS players Rafael Baca and Michael Farfan on Saturday ahead of the move to the Mexico City club.

“Sending Jose Villarreal to Cruz Azul provides one of our Homegrown players an opportunity to gain additional experience,” said Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena in a statement. “We’ll monitor Jose’s play with Cruz Azul and wish him well while in Mexico.”

On Saturday, LA Galaxy Insider reported that the deal is a year-long loan with an option to buy. Any loan fee that the Galaxy receive could net the club significant funs that should be able to improve a squad that has dealt with salary cap issues this offseason.

During the presentation of their new winter signings, Cruz Azul sporting director Agustín Manzo admitted that Mexican club’s idea to add Baca, Farfan and Villarreal came, at least, partially through his “very good friendship” with Galaxy assistant Curt Onalfo who had told him “many times about the players.”

The Cruz  Azul brass may be high on Villarreal, but with La Maquina boasting talented attackers like Marco Fabian, Joao Rojas and Christian Gimenez, Villarreal will have his work cut out for him when it comes to breaking into the first team. If the Galaxy Homegrown forward is unable to crack the first team, then he’ll likely be given significant minutes with the club’s reserve side.

“It’s not going to be easy here, I’ll have to win a place,” said Villarreal after the presentation in Mexico. “With a lot of effort on the field, it can happen.”

20 December 11:04 am

Landon Donovan is widely considered one of the most accomplished players in U.S. Soccer history and it was no surprise on Friday when he was named to the federation's all-time Best XI.

Donovan was the leading vote-getter with a total of 52 votes in a list that included such luminaries like Carlos Bocanegra, Eddie Pope, Clint Dempsey and  Eric Wynalda. 

The LA Galaxy forward has a total of 144 appearances for the U.S. and holds the all-time leads for goals (46) and assists (47). Due to his success with the U.S., Donovan has made a total of three FIFA World Cups in 2002, 2006 and 2010, and is expected to make his make fourth tournament next year when the U.S. head to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.  Donovan has 12 World Cup appearances with five goals.

The 31-year-old also had a storied career with the U.S. youth national teams as he was awarded the Golden Ball award  when he helped the U.S. Under-17's to a fourth place finish at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship in New Zealand while also appearing in the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina with the U.S. Under-20's.

The complete list is below:

18 December 3:40 pm

In their annual End of the Year review, MLSsoccer.com has compiled all of the goals that the LA Galaxy scored in 2013.

Check it out below.

17 December 7:50 pm

There’s considerable talent on the board as MLS prepares for Stage Two of the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Process which will take place on Wednesday at 12pm PT.

During the Stage One of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, the LA Galaxy lost longtime right back Sean Franklin who was selected by D.C. United while Steve Zakuani (Portland Timbers), Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Corben Bone (Philadelphia Union) and Marc Burch (Colorado Rapids) were also selected.

That amount of players available has been whittled down however, with several choosing to opt out in order to re-sign with their previous clubs or being dealt to other teams. Most notably, Kenny Cooper, Mauro Rosales and Bobby Convey were traded while players like Chris Rolfe, Andre Akpan and Logan Pause opted out with looks to return to their former clubs.

If a player is chosen in Stage Two, a club has seven days to make a bona fide offer to the selected individual, and if an agreement can’t be reached that club will have the right of first refusal for that player in MLS. Should a player not be chosen then they will be able to reach an agreement with the club of their choosing.

Prior to stage one, I evaluated several players who could be good fits for the Galaxy and while several have come off the board, former MLS MVPs David Ferreira and Dwayne De Rosario as well as New York Red Bulls forward Fabian Espindola remain the most talented players available. However with the Galaxy losing Sean Franklin, it would not be surprising to see LA go after depth at right back which makes players like Ugo Ihemelu, Brandon Barklage and James Riley intriguing choices.  

The complete list of available players for stage two of the MLS Re-Entry Process are below:

Chicago Fire: D Shaun Francis, M Joel Lindpere, F Maicon Santos, M Wells Thompson*, M Michael Videira

Chivas USA: D Ante Jazic*, D Steve Purdy, M Josue Soto

Columbus Crew: M Danny O'Rourke, M Konrad Warzycha

Colorado Rapids: GK Steward Ceus, D Brian Mullan, M Jamie Smith

D.C. United: M Dwayne De Rosario, D James Riley, F Carlos Ruiz, M Marcelo Saragosa, D Daniel Woolard

FC Dallas: M David Ferreira, D Ugo Ihemelu

Houston Dynamo: F Calen Carr*, M Alex Dixon, F Cam Weaver

LA Galaxy: M Colin Clark, M Laurent Courtois

Montreal Impact: M Sinisa Ubiparipovic

New England Revolution: F Chad Barrett, F Ryan Guy, M Clyde Simms, M Juan Toja

New York Red Bulls: D Brandon Barklage, F Fabian Espindola, D Heath Pearce

Portland Timbers: D Ryan Miller

Real Salt Lake: D Brandon McDonald, GK Josh Saunders, M Khari Stephenson

Seattle Sounders: M Blair Gavin

San Jose Earthquakes: D Nana Attakora, M Mehdi Ballouchy, D Dan Gargan, GK Evan Newton

Toronto FC: F Justin Braun

Vancouver Whitecaps: GK Joe Cannon, F Corey Hertzog

17 December 3:23 pm

Fresh off a titanic week that saw him score goals against the likes of Portugal, England and Brazil, LA Galaxy Academy forward Haji Wright may be off to Europe.

According to Top Drawer Soccer's Travis Clark, Wright has hired an agent who is shopping the young forward to unnamed clubs in Germany. The reports come following Wright's banner performance scoring five goals as the U.S. Under-17's won the Nike International Friendlies last week with wins over England and Brazil

Although the potential move does throw into question Wright's future with the Galaxy, it bares mentioning that the forward's status is by no means set in stone at the moment as no clubs have been identified as possible destinations for Wright.  

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Do you think Wright ends up in Europe?

Share your thoughts below. 

12 December 5:50 pm

Sean Franklin is gone, but now who starts at right back in 2014 for the LA Galaxy?

The frontrunner for the position is veteran A.J. DeLaGarza who started 10 of his 28 regular season league appearances at right back in 2013.  This move would allow Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena to start Kofi Opare, Tommy Meyer or Leonardo alongside Omar Gonzalez at center back while Todd Dunivant remains a mainstay on the left-side of the defense.  

Meanwhile, behind DeLaGarza is Homegrown defender Oscar Sorto who endured a mixed rookie season that saw him earn a place on the U.S. squad at the Under-20 World Cup and appear in two CONCACAF Champions League matches for the Galaxy.  Although the 19-year-old defender was impressive during the U-20 World Cup, he admittedly endured uneven form throughout the season including a poor showing in LA’s CCL group stage finale against Isidro Metapán in October. Heading into his second year as a professional, the Galaxy coaching staff will need Sorto to be more disciplined in training as he seeks to develop into a trusted backup behind DeLaGarza.

Regardless of what improvement that Sorto makes in the coming months, one would expect the Galaxy to use the MLS Re-Entry Draft or the 2014 MLS SuperDraft to bolster their right back depth.

Franklin’s departure will also have an impact on the right side of the midfield for LA as Hector Jimenez and Robbie Rogers appear to be front-runners to start out wide. Each player had moments of success in 2013, but the Galaxy will need greater consistency on the right next season. If Arena is unable to get steady production out of these two players, he may opt to place Landon Donovan along the right and push a player like young forwards Jack McBean, Jose Villarreal or Gyasi Zardes up top alongside Robbie Keane.

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Thoughts on these ideas?

Share them below.

12 December 3:59 pm

Matt Reis is ready for the latest chapter in his life. 

In my latest piece for LAGalaxy.com, I speak with new goalkeeper coach Matt Reis as discusses his reasons for retirement and join Bruce Arena's coaching staff

During my conversation with Reis, I asked about his opinion of LA's current goalkeeping situation and the 38-year-old provided a glowing recommendation of the team's goalkeeper corps.

"I’ve seen Jaime Penedo play and I’ve liked him for a long time. I remember watching him in the Gold Cup final when the U.S. played Panama. I think our styles are very similar," said Reis. "The other two goalkeepers Brian Perk and Brian Rowe are both from UCLA and are both going to be exceptional goalkeepers. Perk came from the same [youth] club that I grew up in and went through some minor setbacks last year while Rowe was able to help earn the team get some tough results over the course of the season … They are three guys who have shown that they can compete at this level so it’ll be exciting competition. "

It bares mentioning that Reis did not mention goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini who is expected to depart the club. 

12 December 1:25 pm

Sean Franklin's time with the LA Galaxy has officially come to an end.

The longtime Galaxy right back was selected by D.C. United in Stage One of the 2013 MLS Re-Entry Process while LA passed on making a selection.

Franklin made 160 regular season appearances for the Galaxy during his six-year stint with the club scoring five goals and 20 assists. The two-time MLS Cup champion and 2008 MLS Rookie of the Year also made 18 appearances in the postseason scoring one goal and five assists. Franklin and D.C. United will return to StubHub Center on March 15 to face the Galaxy.

Also selected in the Stage One were Bobby Boswell (D.C. United), Marc Burch (Colorado Rapids), Corben Bone (Philadelphia Union), and Steve Zakuani (Portland Timbers). 

12 December 9:36 am

We discussed the recently retired Pablo Mastroeni’s career in part one of my Q&A with the veteran midfielder, but in part two, we look at his life after soccer and what he’ll be planning to do next as he looks to move on from the game that he's played for decades.

Read it below.

LAGI: “Going back to Colorado seems to be a natural move here especially with your family being unable to sell your home.”

“The word destiny is appropriate here. I’ve had my house on the market for the last six months and it sold once, then the people backed out and for whatever reason it didn’t sell. I just kept thinking that there was a reason for all this because at some point, you just have to heed the omens. For me, the kids love it, my wife loves it and I love it as well. I just thought that life would take me to different places, but it hasn’t. As long as it doesn’t sell, it looks like we’ll just stay in Colorado and it’s looking more and more like we’re just going to take the house off the market. That way we can settle in here as I go into the next phase of my career as I look to start a soccer school focusing on youth development without having to worry about results on the weekend. It’ll be a way to give back because I’ve had great coaches throughout my career that inspired me and now I want to put my own spin on [the game] to help develop young players in Colorado."

LAGI: “Have you had any conversations with the Colorado Rapids about working for their club academy?"

PM: "We haven’t had any conversations at the moment. I’d like to work with the Colorado Rapids in some capacity, but that’s the competitive side of soccer that says we’re an academy just like the Galaxy and we want to get results on the weekend. My mindset is that we sometimes put so much of a focus on winning at a young age that we miss some steps along the way. I think that we keep talking about how even though American soccer is growing; it’s not a powerhouse in the world. We have the greatest resources in the world, we have the greatest athletes in the world, and my view is that we only lack true player development where the focus is solely on developing players without the distraction of results. I think that kids do enjoy the competition which is great, but you see these soccer schools in Europe where there are many kids who are eight or nine and already destined for first team football. If you walk around the United States, you find maybe one six-year-old or five-year-old who can do that. Now I’m not saying we should train kids at age three, but just to put more focus on player development and supplement what they’re not getting from the clubs due to the focus on winning.”

LAGI: “What is going to be your philosophy for this soccer school?"

PM: "I don’t want to do what has been going on for the last number of years. I think the U.S. Soccer curriculum that Claudio Reyna put together is exceptional, but I want to take from my own experience and travels in order to figure out what we’re not doing [as a country]. If I just followed what everyone else is doing then we’re probably going to get the same results. I want to take the experiences that I learned and put together a different type of curriculum that focuses 100 percent on development and zero on results which I hope can produce more complete and talented soccer players.

"I believe that anything that you do in life that you’re good at becomes eventually much more fun. If you have complete dominion of the ball and are aware of the game, then the game will be that much more fun which will lead to greater success as the player moves into high school and onward.  The other part for me is that it is something that you have to do many repetitions, but still keep it fun for the kids. I have a lot to carve out and think about but I really feel that it could be a nice thing for the youth to experience and get a leg up. I think that teaching the ages of six through 15 would be great.”

LAGI: "You've always been a reflective person so have you ever just thought about what the game of soccer has given you -- helping you meet your wife, allowing you to go to two World Cups. It's certainly been a ride."

PM: “I’ve pondered it quite a bit and it’s been so good to me because it kept me out of trouble in high school. I could have been different but I always went to training and it kept me in line. When you think about all that I’ve seen in my wife and kids. Plus, I hadn’t realized it until a couple years ago but my wife’s family and my family were still getting together for barbeques to watch my games so the game of soccer was a way that my extended family was able to stay together. That’s why I want to start this soccer school because kids would enjoy learning about these experiences that I’ve had while also coming to understand that the game of soccer really mimics the lessons that you learn in life.

LAGI: "Lastly, in just a few weeks your old teammates across the league will be returning to training for preseason while Pablo Mastroeni will be picking up his kids from school. What will that be like?"

PM: “I talked to quite a few guys while I was contemplating my retirement and one of them was [D.C. United head coach and former U.S. National Team player] Ben Olsen. He said ‘the best part of retirement is that you don’t have to go into preseason, you don’t have to train on Tuesday for a game on Saturday. You’re going to love your retirement.’ Now coming from a guy that took it as seriously as he did, it really helped drive it home. I need to find my competitive edge in something else and hopefully starting a soccer school will allow me to educate myself and gets my juices flowing. I know that there won’t be any substitute from being under the lights, at an opposing team’s stadium trying to get a result, and I know that I can’t mimic that. For me, it’ll be tough once the season gets going but for as far as preseason, I won’t miss that one bit.”