There was a time not too long ago when offseason meant turmoil for the Los Angeles Galaxy. But a club that once appeared to be in perpetual upheaval in recent years finally appears to have taken on an air of stability.
Only five players have not returned from last season, when the club made the playoffs for the first time in five years and reached the MLS Cup Final. Midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi was taken by Philadelphia in the expansion draft, veteran defender Tony Sanneh was not invited to training camp, and midfielder Kyle Patterson and defenders Julian Valentin and Leonard Griffin all were put on waivers.
Alan Gordon, the longest-tenured member of the Galaxy who is entering his seventh season with the organization, admitted he breathed a sigh of relief at the lack of significant offseason changes. Take it from someone who's been through three general managers and five head coaches, and that doesn't even include two coaches who were on an interim basis: stability is more than welcome.
"It's a relief. It's a different feeling, that's for sure," he said. "It's almost not normal. You look around and you see everybody back. We've gotten off to a much faster start than any other year.
"We already know each other, we've played with each other for a full year for the most part. It's all about getting back in shape now. You don't have to worry what the other guy's like, what his tendencies are ... you kind of know. It's definitely going to help us, I think."
Head coach/general manager Bruce Arena arrived in Los Angeles in August of 2008 and knew he had to make a number of changes in order to restore the organization to its once-lofty status. He outdid himself with more than a dozen new faces in 2009 and the result was one of the team's most successful seasons in years.
But just as much as he need to reverse the club's sagging fortunes a year ago, there was no need for a repeat scenario in 2010 and Gordon, for one, was happy to see it.
"It makes all the difference," said Gordon, who has 15 career goals and 12 assists since he joined Los Angeles after being named A-League Rookie of the Year with the Portland Timbers in 2004. "You look at the successful teams in this league like Houston, New England, and they've been good for the past five years because they've kept their squads together. For the most part, the nucleus sticks around.
"We've got our nucleus back and we've added a couple new faces that I think can add some quality to the team. That's what it takes."
Stability also has entered Gordon's personal life. The 28-year-old got married in December.
"She's helped me out tremendously," he said of his wife, Sandi. "She was not a soccer fan, but now she is. She didn't know how many people were in it or if it even existed, but now she likes to support me and the team.
"It's pretty funny when someone who doesn't know the game starts to get interested, and learning what's offside is pretty funny. It's nice to see."
The sense of calm that is almost unmistakeable in this year's camp not only is a welcome change, Gordon said, but long overdue.
"It's awesome," he said. "This is a club that deserves stability. It's supposed to be one of the top franchises in the league. I think that it should be a privilege to be here and have somethere where every single year we are continuing to get better ... not changing the whole deal.
"We have to keep the stability, keep the good people that built up this club and helped make it great."
Larry Morgan is a contributor to MLSnet.com.