LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review: Midfielders

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s 2015 season was full of incredible highs and devastating lows that culminated in an untimely exit early in the postseason.  

As we look back on 2015, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will provide a review on each position. In the latest LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review piece, we look at the team’s midfielders.

JUNINHO

APPEARANCES IN ALL OFFICIAL COMPETITIONS:

Games Played: 37 (34 in MLS regular season, two in U.S. Open Cup, one in MLS Cup Playoffs)

Games Started: 34 (32 in MLS regular season, one in MLS Cup Playoffs, one in U.S. Open Cup)

Goals: 4 (all in MLS regular season)

Assists: 8 (seven in MLS regular season, one in MLS Cup Playoffs)

BAGGIO HUSIDIC

GP: 28 (24 in MLS regular season, two in CONCACAF Champions League, one in U.S. Open Cup, one in MLS Cup Playoffs)

GS: 22 (21 in MLS regular season, one in CONCACAF Champions League)

G: 3 (two in MLS regular season, one in U.S. Open Cup)

A: 5 (all in MLS regular season)

SEBASTIAN LLETGET

GP: 30 (20 in MLS regular season, three in U.S. Open Cup, two in CONCACAF Champions League, one in MLS Cup Playoffs)

GS: 20 (17 in MLS regular season, two in U.S. Open Cup, one in MLS Cup Playoffs)

G: 9 (seven in MLS regular season, one in CONCACAF Champions League, one in MLS Cup Playoffs)

A: 4 (two in MLS regular season, two in U.S. Open Cup)

MIKA VAYRYNEN

GP: 23 (19 in MLS regular season, four in CONCACAF Champions League)

GS: 14 (10 in MLS regular season, four in CONCACAF Champions League)

G: 1 (in CONCACAF Champions League)

A: 0

STEFAN ISHIZAKI

GP: 20 (20 in MLS regular season)

GS: 19 (19 in MLS regular season)

G: 1 (in MLS regular season)

A: 5 (in MLS regular season)

IGNACIO MAGANTO

GP: 20 (13 in MLS regular season, four in CONCACAF Champions League, three in U.S. Open Cup)

GS: 13 (six in MLS regular season, four in CONCACAF Champions League, three in U.S. Open Cup)

G: 2 (one in MLS regular season, one in CONCACAF Champions League)

A: 5 (two in MLS regular season, two in U.S. Open Cup, one in CONCACAF Champions League)

STEVEN GERRARD

GP: 15 (13 in MLS regular season, one in U.S. Open Cup, one in MLS Cup Playoffs)

GS: 14 (13 in MLS regular season, one MLS Cup Playoffs)

G: 2 (in MLS regular season)

A: 3 (in MLS regular season)

RAFAEL GARCIA

GP: 15 (10 in MLS regular season, four in CONCACAF Champions League, one in U.S. Open Cup)

GS: 9 (four in MLS regular season, four in CONCACAF Champions League, one in U.S. Open Cup)

G: 0

A: 1 (in CONCACAF Champions League)

KENNEY WALKER

GP: 7 (eight in MLS regular season, three in CONCACAF Champions League, three in U.S. Open Cup)

GS: 6 (three in MLS regular season, three in CONCACAF Champions League, three in U.S. Open Cup)

G: 0

A: 4 (two in U.S. Open Cup, two in CONCACAF Champions League)

HIGHLIGHTS:

When the LA Galaxy’s midfield were at their best, they were the best group in Major League Soccer.

Due to injuries and international call-ups, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena was forced to shuffle his midfield for a majority of the season; but in August, the group found their stride. The Galaxy found this success in part due to a pair of new arrivals, legendary English midfielder Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Lletget. With Gerrard in the center alongside Juninho, as well as Lletget and Gyasi Zardes manning the wings, the Galaxy midfield rolled through clubs en route to a 6-1-0 record in August.

Despite all of the changes in 2015, Juninho remained the fulcrum of the Galaxy midfield, with yet another fantastic season. The Brazilian ironman appeared in a team-high 37 games while making a whopping 34 starts for the Galaxy.  After only scoring once in 2014, Juninho rediscovered his scoring touch with four goals and eight assists across all competitions. His ability to get on the score sheet was not his only success, however, as the Brazilian excelled in maintaining the team’s midfield shape and sending pinpoint passes up field. 

Juninho was placed alongside a revolving door of midfield partners in 2015, but in July, he found his central midfield partner for the foreseeable future in Steven Gerrard. Signed in the offseason from Liverpool FC, the former England captain scored twice –including a goal in his first league game for the club—while adding three assists.

Gerrard might have arrived with more fanfare, but the most important midfield addition of the season was 23-year-old Sebastian Lletget. Signed from West Ham United, Lletget joined the club in May and steadily developed into one of the team’s most dangerous attacking threats. Demonstrating a creative flair along with a nose for goal and impressive athleticism, Lletget flourished for the Galaxy. The 23-year-old was at his best during the summer, when he scored eight of his nine goals while cementing his status as one of the best young talents in the MLS.

Lletget wasn’t the only gem that Arena unearthed in 2015, as 23-year-old Ignacio Maganto enjoyed a strong rookie campaign. The Spanish midfielder scored two goals in 20 appearances across all competitions, but his best strike was his first professional goal against the New England Revolution on a rainy day in April.

The Galaxy also bid farewell to midfielder Stefan Ishizaki after a year-and-a-half with the club. The 2014 MLS Cup champion made 20 appearances for the Galaxy while tallying one goal and five assists before opting to go back to his native Sweden. The 33-year-old chose to return to Scandinavia for the birth of his second child.

LOWLIGHTS:

For years, the LA Galaxy midfield was one of the club’s most stable positions, but the 2015 campaign was marked by change.

The LA Galaxy boasted one of the most talented midfields in Major League Soccer in 2015, but the group was unable to gel fast enough to compete for a sixth MLS Cup title. The midseason additions of players, like Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Lletget, paid off immediate dividends in the summer months and September. But by the time that October rolled around, the team’s midfield showed signs of a disconnect.

Whether it was a failure to generate attacking opportunities or allowing opposing teams too much possession, there were red flags for the team as the season wound down. The lowest moment for the midfield came on Oct. 18 when the Portland Timbers strolled into StubHub Center and overpowered the Galaxy en route to a 5-2 victory. The loss sent the Galaxy tumbling down the Western Conference standings and ultimately out of the playoffs all together by the end of the month.

One of the reasons for the Galaxy's midfield struggles was that newcomers like Gerrard, Lletget, and forward Giovani dos Santos were expected to produce immediately as they sought to adapt to the rigors of MLS. Gerrard, in particular, was placed in a central midfield role that required the Englishman to instantly be at his best. Although Gerrard notched two goals and three assists in his 15 appearances across all competitions, he was unable to find the form that the Galaxy had expected when he was signed in January.

In addition to Gerrard’s struggles, the Galaxy were also unable to get much out of Finnish midfielder Mika Vayrynen. Signed at the start of the season to add a bit of technical ability and veteran leadership to the midfield, Vayrynen struggled to find his footing in Major League Soccer making just 23 appearances across all competitions, while scoring only once. Due to his inconsistent season, Vayrynen had his contract option declined by season’s end.

OVERVIEW:

The expectations will be high for the LA Galaxy’s midfield corps heading into the 2016 season.

High-profile additions Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Lletget will have a full preseason with the club, and will be expected to produce even more than they did in their first season. Starting the season together should only help the team’s newcomers click and allow the Galaxy to create the same type of cohesiveness that they enjoyed in 2014.

With the core of the group back in 2016, the only wildcards might be further down the depth chart. Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena is expected to add another piece to his midfield after declining contract options on Mika Vayrynen and Kenney Walker.

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com.   

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