In 2012, Michael Stephens had two very defined -- and very different -- roles with the LA Galaxy. (Read my evaluation of the player here)
During MLS play, he was predominantly used as a late substitute who would provide energy and help the Galaxy close out games while during LA's CONCACAF Champions League campaign, Stephens was the experienced veteran providing leadership on and off the field for the club's youngsters. But with a series of departures and a number of question marks in the midfield, Stephens' fourth season in MLS may be when he finally solidifies a role in the starting XI.
With David Beckham having left the club and the status of Juninho still up in the air, Stephens is one of the prime in-house candidates to slide into the vacant spots in the Galaxy midfield. During the 2012 calendar year, Stephens made a total of 33 appearances in all competitions while racking up two goals and two assists.
“With the retirements and [departures], there’s going to be some opportunity next year," Stephens recently told the LA Galaxy Insider. "There will be some positions up for grabs maybe more than there were last year. For me, personally, that’s something that I’m looking forward to.”
Stephens intends to spend the offseason in his native Chicago, but once he returns to Southern California for the preseason, he's eager to grab a spot in the Galaxy's starting XI.
"When guys leave and especially guys that were in starting positions – obviously, the coaches have their own plan for those positions— but when you lose starters, those positions are up in the air," said Stephens. "It’s something to fight for and I’ll be ready for that next year.”
Rate Stephens' season below.
This particular player rating needs no introduction, I recently rated the season of midfielder David Beckham. If you haven't already, be sure to take a gander it here.
Beckham's evaluation comes amid French reports that Beckham has crossed off French side AS Monaco as one of his potential destinations.
Rate Beckham's season yourself below.
No matter what you celebrate, I want to wish all of you well wishes during this holiday season and many thanks for following the LA Galaxy Insider during this eventful season.
A special holiday video from the entire Galaxy organization is below.
Another British tabloid is linking Chelsea FC talisman Frank Lampard to the LA Galaxy.
The Daily Mirror states that Lampard could leave Chelsea for the Galaxy at the end of the 2011/2012 EPL season. The tabloid also links Lampard with EPL relegation candidates Queen's Park Rangers where his uncle Harry Redknapp is the manager.
*Aside from the numerous transfer rumors, Galaxy fans can vote for the club's back-to-back championship in David Beckham's final as one of Los Angeles' top five sports moments of the year on the Los Angeles Times website.
In other news...
*Lionel Messi will end 2012 with 91 goals in the calendar year after scoring in FC Barcelona's 3-1 win over Real Valladolid. ESPN FC breaks down his incredible season.
*South America's premier club tournament, the Copa Libertadores will take place just three hours drive from Los Angeles. Club Tijuana were drawn into group five of the Libertadores on Friday where they will face off against Brazilian club -- and current Club World Cup champion -- Corinthians, Colombian champions Millonarios and Bolivia’s San José. Two teams advance from the group stage to the quarterfinals. Dates for the matches have not been set yet, but the tournament will begin in February.
*Boca Juniors is reportedly after Philadelphia Union center back Carlos Valdes.
*There is no guarantee that midfielder Davide Chiumiento will be returning to Vancouver Whitecaps FC according to club president Bob Lenarduzzi.
The LA Galaxy Under-18’s will have the opportunity to test themselves against some of the world’s best clubs this March.
Sources close to the tournament told the LA Galaxy Insider that the Galaxy Academy will participate in the prestigious Dr. Pepper Dallas Cup youth tournament in the Gordon Jago Super Group for the first time in the Academy's history. The tournament takes place from March 24 to March 31 at various venues in the Dallas area including the Cotton Bowl, University of Texas-Dallas and Richland College. The age criteria for the tournament is here and every Galaxy Homegrown player is eligble to participate except for the newly signed Gyasi Zardes.
The Under-19 tournament currently consists of a number of prominent clubs including EPL side Fulham, German club Eintracht Frankfurt, Mexican sides Club America and Tigres UNAL as well as Brazilian clubs Coritiba and Fluminense. Last year, Coritiba defeated the Manchester United Under-19’s to win the tournament. The last American youth club to win the Gorgon Jago Super Group was the Dallas Texans in 2006, who were led by current Galaxy center back and 2012 MLS Cup MVP Omar Gonzalez.
Several former and current Galaxy players have cut their teeth at the Dallas Cup with David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Juninho, Oscar Sorto, Jose Villarreal, Zardes, and Gonzalez among the alumni.
Thursday was a busy day for the LA Galaxy, but my player evaluations are rolling right along with the evaluations of Homegrown forward Jose Villarreal and rookie defender Tommy Meyer.
You'll have chance to rate the players your own below...
Could the LA Galaxy have a new goalkeeper between the pipes once the 2013 season rolls around? According to report in Sports Illustrated, the LA Galaxy are close to an two-year contract agreement with veteran Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
The report states that Cudicini has asked to be paid "the maximum possible within the club's salary cap" whether this is a Designated Player status or not, remains to be seen.
The 39-year-old goalkeeper is currently buried down the depth chart with Tottenham Hotspur, currently serving as the club's fourth-string 'keeper behind starter Hugo Lloris, American international Brad Friedel, and Brazilian international Heurelho Gomes. Cudicini has spent nearly 15 years with clubs in England's Premier League after a lengthy tour of duty in his native Italy, having played at Chelsea from 2004 to 2009 when he joined Tottenham. He has just a single first team appearance for Tottenham this year during the club's 3-0 League Cup victory over Carlisle United.
Last week, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters that club was currently communicating with the representation of current number one goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
As reported first on the LA Galaxy Insider on Wednesday afternoon, the LA Galaxy formally announced the signature of Cal-State Bakersfield standout Gyasi Zardes on Thursday morning.
Considered the number one prospect in college soccer by many, Zardes scored 38 goals and 17 assists in 56 games during his three year stint with the Roadrunners. The former Galaxy Under-18 and Under-20 player also spent time with the PDL's Ventura County Fusion during both the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to join the LA Galaxy. The chance to play in front of family and friends and alongside the likes of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan truly is a dream come true,” Zardes said in a statement. “I would like to sincerely thank the Galaxy, MLS, Cal-State University Bakersfield and Wasserman [his agency] for their support and belief in me. I would also like to thank God without whom I would certainly not be where I am today. I am looking forward to working hard and helping the Galaxy defend their MLS Cup title next season”.
The 21-year-old forward from Hawthorne becomes the fifth Homegrown signing in Galaxy history and the fourth currently on the team as he joins Jack McBean, Oscar Sorto and Jose Villarreal.
“Gyasi has been one of the most exciting prospects in our Academy for a number of years and was one of the best players in college soccer over the past few years so we are excited to finally be able to sign him as a Homegrown Player,” Galaxy Vice President Chris Klein said in a statement. “He has grown and improved immeasurably as a result of his experiences with our Academy and at Bakersfield and we look forward to having him make his Galaxy debut in 2013.”
A video clip of some of Zardes' highlights that surfaced on Wednesday is below...
Share your thoughts on the signing below.