With the LA Galaxy beginning their pre-season in earnest, it's worth taking a look at the position battles Arena will stage and what spots are really an open competition. The key piece in all of this is where Arena sees Donovan playing consistently in 2014, and yesterday we got out answer in an interview on SirusXM FC.
So here's the Galaxy's top 4-4-2 from last season according to the rankings at WhoScored:
J. Penedo; S. Franklin, O. Gonzalez, A. DeLaGarza, T. Dunivant; L. Donovan, M. Sarvas, Juninho, G. Zardes; R. Keane, J. Villarreal
Now there were some choices there. Donovan had more appearances and a higher rating at forward than Villarreal, but Donovan's highest rating was at right midfielder. That coupled with Bruce Arena's comments about Donovan playing mainly in the midfield influenced that decision. So then the 2013 line-up holes would be:
J. Penedo; _____, O. Gonzalez, A. DeLaGaza, T. Dunivant; L. Donovan, M. Sarvas, Juninho, G. Zardes; R. Keane, _____
If we assume DeLaGarza takes over at right fullback, then it's a center back spot that's open. Centerback is going to be a battle between Kofi Opare and Leonardo not to mention Tommy Meyer. Newest draft pick Kyle Venter is probably looking at starting his season with LA Galaxy II along with one of those three already mentioned.
The open forward spot will be a battle between Samuel and Rob Friend. It's a battle that I expect the younger Samuel to win, but Zardes could also be in the mix there as well.
The competition in the midfield is more open than it might look. Stefan Ishizaki is more of a winger on the right side, and when he plays on the left side he likes to come in. Rogers is a left side guy. So how secure is Zardes' control of the left wide midfielder position? His rating was only a tenth higher than Rogers with ten more appearances.
There's also the option of Arena going to a diamond and having Donovan play an attacking midfielder behind the forward pairing. That would likely leave Marcel Sarvas as the odd man out with Juninho playing the DM role. Arena could go with Ishizaki on the right and Rogers/Zardes on the left.
Arena showed last season that he willing to make changes based upon pre-season performance. With Landon Donovan still on sabbatical last year, Arena had DeLaGarza as a right fullback, Leonardo starting, Sean Franklin in the midfield with Colin Clark on the other side, and Mike Magee up top with Keane.
Of course, some of those moves were mistakes quickly righted, with Colin Clark falling off the face of the earth. That meant Magee had to go back to the midfield where he went cold on the goalscoring front. Donovan's return allowed Franklin to return to fullback. It was all a bit piece meal.
What is clear is that Rogers was brought in to play left midfield and Arena wants Donovan on the other side. Zardes stepped up to help, but he might not be starting opening day 2014. Samuel was brought in to give Keane more freedom. The roles of Friend and Ishizaki are more to do with veteran depth. Center back may be the most open competition on the pitch.