The LA Galaxy enter the 2014 season of Major League Soccer hoping to forget a disappointing 2013, and head coach Bruce Arena is determined to make up for last season’s lost opportunities and missed chances by getting back to trophy-winning ways. His intent and activity in the offseason firmly supported his ambition of strengthening the team and addressing many concerns which led to inconsistent results and 11 losses in the league — six more than the conference leading Portland Timbers. Let us take a look at the team’s key factors in attack, defense and midfield to predict if they can end the year on a successful note.
USMNT star Landon Donovan and Republic of Ireland national football team captain Robbie Keane are still the biggest names on the roster, but Arena has brought in admirable depth in attack. Brazilian Samuel Rosa Gonçalves has arrived on loan from Fluminense while veteran forward Rob Friend has been signed from German club TSV 1860 Munich for free. Youngster Gyasi Zardes showed great promise last season and has the ingredients to become a future star. All of these players give Arena better options than last season when the coach was forced to involve less-experienced players in key games towards the end of last season.
The Galaxy made a crucial move by acquiring Swedish international Stefan Ishizaki from IF Elfsborg. Ishizaki had a fruitful association of seven years with Elfsborg and netted 48 times in 183 games. Arena was understandably excited at the arrival of Ishizaki and hopes that the player’s experience will introduce a different dimension into the Galaxy’s midfield. Baggio Husidić‘s arrival from Swedish second division side Hammarby IF is expected to strengthen the defensive midfield area. Central midfielder Marcelo Sarvas was arguably the most reliable player last season and, together with fellow Brazilian Juninho, would be excited with the team’s increased options at the forward position.
Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo‘s arrival at the club has been attributed to the club’s improved showing in defense towards the end of last season. His presence would be a key factor in stifling opposing teams in the upcoming season. The Galaxy also benefited last season from the presence of center back Kofi Opare and, with the addition of veteran right back James Riley in the offseason, the team can count on the presence of experience to address problematic issues like set-piece defending. Penedo’s role in organizing his players in such situations could be the defining factor this season.
The Galaxy have made some great additions to the squad, and the team looks strong enough to progress deep in the playoffs. The right mix of youth and experience should also add more maturity to the squad’s play, and it is safe to expect the team to contend strongly for a trophy this season. If Keane has another stellar season, his supporting cast looks more than able to lead the Galaxy to a successful campaign in 2014 and perhaps finish first in the conference.