Coming off an MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, and qualification for the knockout rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League it would be easy for the Galaxy to stand pat. However, Bruce Arena has made numerous additions throughout the offseason and preseason in an attempt to improve the squad’s quality and depth.
The additions of Marcelo Sarvas, Edson Buddle, Tommy Meyer, and the return of Juninho mean the Galaxy are once again the favorites in MLS. However, other teams are also improving (Seattle recently added US International Eddie Johnson) and the Galaxy’s preseason has been up and down. The team opened preseason by pummeling the LA Blues 7-2, then suffered three straight defeats to Portland, Houston, and Montreal. They closed out the first half of their preseason when their reserves defeated Chivas USA’s first team lineup at the HDC. The team will now be moving their training camp to Arizona where they will play four games against MLS competition before opening their competitive schedule on March 7th against Toronto FC in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the CONCACF Champions League in Toronto.
No one should read too much into some poor preseason results as many of the first team players have only been playing a half at a time in order to work on fitness. The team has also been missing Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan who have both had fantastic loan spells playing in the English Premier League. Donovan even won the award for Everton’s player of the month for January. Those two will be returning to the team this week and Juninho has made his return to the country as well.
With all of these additions there are bound to be some departures as MLS restricts rosters to 30 players. The Galaxy started camp with 37 including two trialists, Bill Gaudette and J.T. Murray. The team recently cut three players to bring the roster to 34; second year players Ryan Thomas and Dustin McCarty as well as rookie Stephen Posa. The team must make four more cuts in order to get under the MLS roster limits. They are allowed to have less than 30, but the Galaxy will probably carry players in all 30 spots to provide depth for their numerous competitions. Bill Gaudette faces an uphill battle to make the team as Josh Saunders, Nick Noble, and Brian Perk are fairly set as the first three goalkeepers. Gaudette has spent time with the Puerto Rico Islanders in the USL. The other trialist J.T. Murray actually has a fairly good chance to make the squad as a left back. Todd Dunivant is the only other true left back on the roster. Murray was second round Superdraft selection of Sporting KC in the 2011 Superdraft and would make a quality backup to Dunivant.
The most interesting decision may relate to what the Galaxy decide to do with their seven international spots. After trading one away to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for Kyle Nakazawa and a 2nd round Superdraft choice they are trying to fit eight players into seven spots. David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, Paolo Cardozo, and Leonardo seem like safe bets to make the roster. Which means the decision comes down to MLS veteran Andrew Boyens and promising second year player Daniel Keat both of whom are from New Zealand. This is just a guess but look for the Galaxy to choose Keat who impressed last season, and started earning minutes down the stretch run. The one detractor against Keat is that the Galaxy have a lot of talented young players in central midfield including Nakazawa, homegrown player Jose Villareal, Michael Stephens, Kenney Walker, and Rafael Garcia.
Walker, Garcia, and Justin Davies look to be fighting for the last spot on the roster. Davies is the brother of US International Charlie Davies is versatile and fast spending time at right back and in left midfield in college, but looks to be out of a roster spot with the club. Rafael Garcia from CSUN has impressed in camp making a darting run to set up Adam Cristman for a goal in the Galaxy’s victory over Chivas. Walker has the better pedigree as the 2nd round draft pick, but both rookies face an uphill battle, for now we will say that Kenney Walker earns the last spot on the roster.
MLS allows players to be put on the disabled list, which could give the Galaxy some more time to make decisions about their roster. If players are put on the disable list they are ineligible for the next six games. Omar Gonzalez will certainly be placed on the disabled list perhaps opening up a roster spot for both Walker and Garcia. Andrew Boyens presents another interesting scenario if Leonardo is not ready for the start of the season. Leonardo is still recovering from his knee injury that ended his 2011 season. If he is not ready the Galaxy could conceivably put him on the disabled list and keep Boyens for the time being. They cannot keep Boyens as a replacement for Gonzalez because they still need to abide by the international roster spots. However, if an international player is put on the disable list he does not count against the international roster spots until he returns from injury, so the Galaxy could keep Boyens until they are sure Leonardo is fully recovered from injury.
This is a very difficult decisions and a testament to the roster that Bruce Arena has built. The team has a lot of depth in midfield and forward. Roster space could be opened up with a trade, Chad Barrett is a possibility. Arena has developed lots of talented young players to complement the designated players and core of the team.
Projected LA Galaxy Roster
Goalkeepers (3): Josh Saunders, Nick Noble, Brian Perk
Defenders (9): Sean Franklin, Todd Dunivant, A.J. De La Garza, Tommy Meyer, Leonardo, Bryan Jordan, J.T. Murray, Bryan Gaul, Omar Gonzalez
Midfielders (11): David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Juninho, Marcelo Sarvas, Mike Magee, Michael Stephens, Kyle Nakazawa, Hector Jimenez, Jose Villareal, Dan Keat, Kenney Walker
Forwards (7): Robbie Keane, Edson Buddle, Chad Barrett, Pat Noonan, Paolo Cardozo, Adam Cristman,
Injury Replacements: Rafael Garcia, Andrew Boyens
Cut: Justin Davies, Bill Gaudette