In putting together my end of the year list I decided to go not with the top five or the bottom five, just five events that defined the LA Galaxy's 2013 season; for better or for worse. These are the events that led us to the point that we're at now, listed in no particular order.
A.J. DeLaGarza - right back
DeLaGarza didn't make the majority of starts for the LA Galaxy, only ten of his thirty appearance were as fullback, but it was clear from the beginning of the season that Bruce Arena wanted to mix things up on the back line. DeLaGarza started at right back in the season opener with Leonardo lining up next to Omar Gonzalez.
Later in the year with Gonzalez getting national team minutes, DeLaGarza's versatility allowed rookie Kofi Opare to make his debut. Opare's goal against the Montreal Impact was key in the Galaxy avoiding the play-in game. With DeLaGarza injured in the playoffs, it was Opare who stepped up.
Perhaps most significantly going into next season, DeLaGarza gave LA an option at right back that made them feel comfortable not picking up Sean Franklin's option. Franklin was one of the longest tenured guys on the Galaxy, and his absence is a big change going forward.
Jaime Penedo's transfer
This section could also bear the title "LA Galaxy let Josh Saunders walk" but that didn't happen in 2013. Heading into 2013 the LA Galaxy had parted ways with their top two goalkeepers over two consecutive off seasons. The hole at goalkeeper was ultimately filled by Carlo Cudicini who hand't gotten regular minutes for a few seasons and was fast approaching 40 years old.
That he wasn't a total disaster is owed solely to the fact that he had a defense in front of him which greatly limited the shots he faced. However it's not much of a comfort knowing that a potential Chernobyl was a mere Three Mile Island.
Jaime Penedo asserted himself during Panama's run through the Gold Cup, giving the Galaxy a huge boost at the keeper position. It's essentially a hole that LA has been trying to fill since Donovan Ricketts became too expensive.
Mike Magee traded for Robbie Rogers' rights
This move has been so controversial from the moment it was announced that I don't even like bringing it up anymore. However it's impossible to talk about 2013 without talking about this trade. Bruce Arena is always looking for quick wide players, which for whatever reason has been a terribly difficult role to fill. Christian Wilhelmsson gave LA half a season, then Arena picked up Colin Clark in the Re-Entry Draft. Outside of the season opener, Clark didn't see much time at all.
Mike Magee made two starts at forward during Landon Donovan's sabbatical (more on that in a second) but afterward his other eight appearances were in the midfield. Then Arena decided to make the gamble that an out of form Robbie Rogers would be a better midfield option than Magee.
Rogers, of course, had just made national news after coming out as gay. He'd stepped away from the game before making the announcement, so he had a lot of fitness work to do before he could be considered effective. Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire used Magee as a forward and he was excellent winning MLS MVP.
I've said it several times, Magee would have helped LA this year but he wouldn't have been MVP. Arena would not have used him as a forward which is clearly his natural position. So the trade has to be judged more on what Rogers can give the club. Ultimately that's still to be determined.
Landon Donovan's sabbatical
Donovan taking off for a holiday in Cambodia was a running gag early in the season, but by the end of the season it was mostly forgotten. Outside of showcasing Mike Magee's potential as a target forward, Donovan's time off was also defined by young forwards Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean getting extended minutes.
LA gave up points to Chivas USA without Donovan, who was back for the 2-2 draw against Toronto FC (where Villarreal scored a wonder strike equalizer). Getting a chance to show off led to Villarreal's loan for the 2013 season.
This all fits into an ongoing argument about the academy system. Galaxy Academy prospects Paul Arriola and Villarreal will both play in Mexico next season, and the scuttlebutt has current academy prospect Haji Wright shopped around Europe.
Donovan came back completely rejuvenated, but there's been an argument since then about how best to use the academy prospects.
Gyasi Zardes, permanent starter
Zardes got plenty of attention for his comments during the 2013 MLS Superdraft about his skills blowing people's minds. Like any prospect he needed time to learn the ways of MLS, and his potential started to show when Arena moved him to the midfield. With Rogers suffering with injuries, both the wide midfield spots were up for grabs and Zardes seized the opportunity.
Zardes's greatest attribute is his speed, but he's great with the ball on his feet as well. His four goals were a help down the stretch, and his Generation Adidas status stands as a counter-example to the academy question. Now if only Jack McBean could have a multi goal season.
What moments from the 2013 do you think defined the season? Leave your examples in the comments.