CARSON, Calif. – To return to MLS Cup in 2014, the LA Galaxy are betting heavily on experienced, battle-tested faces to restore the team’s place at the summit of MLS.
Immediately after their disappointing Western Conference Semifinal defeat to Real Salt Lake, Galaxy head coach and general manager Bruce Arena wasted no time retooling his squad. Over the offseason, the Galaxy added Canadian forward Rob Friend, MLS veteran Baggio Hušidić, Swedish international Stefan Ishizaki and talented Brazilian forward Samuel to the fold.
With the Galaxy hoping to challenge the likes of Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers, Arena believed that acquiring veteran leadership was vital.
“A big part of this team this year is that we’re going to have good depth and experienced players that can play a lot of roles throughout the season,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “We’re hopeful that our team is a little bit better and a little bit more consistent because if there was a weakness last year, it’s that we were inconsistent.
“We were one of the top teams in league in terms of scoring goals and one of the top teams defending. Yet, the results were inconsistent,” Arena continued. “I’m hoping that we have a little bit more quality and a little bit more experience this year that will allow us to play more consistently.”
During the ill-fated 2013 season, the Galaxy attack went as far as the play of Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane carried them with the duo accounting for 26 goals and 20 assists. And that was most apparent when the team fell to RSL as both failed to find the back of the net as the Galaxy missed out on qualifying for the Western Conference Championship for the first time since 2008.
To help out the Designated Player tandem, Arena acquired a pair of accomplished target men in Friend and Samuel to supplement their output. Both bring an accomplished pedigree with Friend, 33, having spent the last 11-years in Europe while Samuel, 23, was a first team regular for Brazilian giants Fluminense.
“It gives us a lot of weapons. We haven’t that kind of firepower since I’ve been here,” said Donovan. “We have a lot of attacking players that can make real plays. The more players that you have like that on the field, the better it is.”
The changes didn’t stop there as the addition of Hušidić provides needed depth at the defensive midfield position that was thin at times last season.
But perhaps more importantly, the Galaxy added yet another weapon on the flanks with the acquisition of Ishizaki. Wide play has long been a cause for concern for the Galaxy and with the acquisition of Ishizaki—as well as the ever-maturing Gyasi Zardes –give LA much needed width.
“[Ishizaki] is a very good passer. Very composed and experienced. He gives us a little something different in the midfield,” said Arena. “He’ll make plays that amount to something. We have a lot of players with a lot of energy with good intentions, but he’s the player that will make the final pass.”
Some of the faces may be different, but the end goal is the same: helping the Galaxy win an unprecedented fifth MLS Cup.
“I didn’t move to L.A. to just play,” said Ishizaki. “I’m here to win.”