The buzz of late has been that the Los Angeles Galaxy have been trying to engineer a deal that would trade Marcelo Sarvas in exchange for a top allocation position in order to sign former US National team midfielder and champions league veteran, Sacha Kljestan. On Wednesday, Jeff Carlisle was able to ascertain that aside from talks with Montreal, San Jose, who is second in the allocation order, might be interested in Marcelo Sarvas, which, if true, opens up yet another path for the Galaxy acquiring Kljestan, assuming Montreal pass.
In response to this speculation, Galaxy fans are absolutely livid that the Galaxy front office would even consider trading Marcello Sarvas, whose tireless work rate has made him a fan favorite.
On Wednesday I issued the following challenge to the swarm of Galaxy fans who voiced their disapproval of such a much.
Here is why the Kljestan for Sarvas move makes sense. Come up with a better lineup than this with Sarvas in it. pic.twitter.com/ydQRXV5rHS— Sean Steffen (@SeanSteffen) January 15, 2015
Although I had engaged in debate with many fans on the issue prior to this, not a single person took me up on my offer. And here is why--Kljestan for Sarvas just makes sense.
Look, we all know that Sarvas is a good two way player who works his tail off on defense. This, however, is of less value if he's forced out wide, which he will be when Gerrard comes. Two way wingers need to provide more in the attack than Sarvas does, and Kljestan fits that model.
Do the Galaxy lose some defensive bite? Actually, I'm not sure they do. Gerrard may not be box to box, but he still makes tackles, averaging nearly 3 a game. He is also not the type to not track back at all. Kljestan is also a two way player, and while his strength is more in the attack, he still manages over two tackles a game. With Juninho as a backstop, the only midfielder who won't be winning the ball on a consistent basis is Ishizaki. Furthermore, perhaps the Galaxy's best ball winner, Baggio Husidic, will be available for spot starts and subs, in select situations where more defense is needed.
Part of the reason that "Tiki-Taco" was so successful, was that it was built around the team's main chance creators--Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. Keane likes to drop back and to the left, and as a left sided midfielder, Donovan likes to cut inside. This puts them in roughly the same part of the field. And here is a nifty thing that happens when you put smart players in proximity to one another-- they feed off one another. They create space for one another, they combine, they just, in general, play better soccer. This was the engine that drove the famous combination play around the box that made Tiki-Taco famous.
This is why the line up from my tweet is so deadly
Not only does it provide 3 ball winners, but it puts Keane, Gerrard, and Kljestan, in proximity to one another. This will facilitate good combination play, and smart movement off one another. Juninho can also play the same type of role he did last year, being both a back stop and an attacking cog on the left side if Gerrard drifts right.
This will allow Zardes to continue playing the same role-- uninvolved in the build up, where his game is weaker, and active in the final third when the Keane, Kljestan, Gerrard triangle tears open a hole for him to make a late run through. Nothing changes.
Essentially, it's the tiki-taco offense that smashed all offensive records last year, only with an extra attacking player added into the mix. It also doesn't lose much, if any on the other side of the ball.
As if that isn't convincing enough, consider the Galaxy's lineup prior to the arrival of Gerrard. As it stands, the loss of Landon Donovan leaves the midfield attack rather toothless.
Here is the best lineup I can come up with for if the season started today.
It's a diamond that can hold possession, but lacks punch. I chose a diamond because Ishizaki runs in space really well with Keane, as he showed early last year in the same position, so Keane would have at least a little skill around him.
The biggest problem with the formation is that Baggio and Sarvas offer the diamond the same thing-- a two way player that provides more defense than offense, and can sit back and help Juninho, making sure he isn't isolated on the counter. A shuttler like that is essential to any diamond, however, you only need one. The alternative is to play Mendiola or Bradford Jamieson IV on the wing. Unfortunately, neither really have the experience to be counted on yet, and the Galaxy would essentially be relying on one of these rookies to have a break out year to have any kind of offense what so ever for the first half of the year.
If you don't like the diamond, here is your alternative. It's even more toothless.
The reason I display the formation like this and not flat, is because I know the positional tendencies of these players. If you play Ishizaki on the right, regardless of the formation, he will play extremely high up the field. Likewise, if you play Baggio on the wing, he generally just ends up playing deeper.
Again, this lineup essentially requires that Mendiola or Jamieson make a name for themselves. It is not outside the realm of possibility, and I'm all for giving those kids more chances, but the fate of the offense shouldn't rest on it.
If the Galaxy acquire Kljestan, however, the beginning of the season is a lot less bleak. Here are the options in order of their appeal.
The first is a diamond. It's simple, tight, and balanced, with two chance creators and two ball winners. It also has our most attacking full back, Rogers, overlapping the more defensive of the wingers, Husidic, which is how the diamond is generally played.
The second and third options are flat fours. They may not look like flat fours, but that's because I draw lineups based on how players position themselves. 4-4-2's are drawn flat and referred two at flat fours, but they rarely play flat. As I mentioned above, Husidic tends to sit back when playing the wing position, so the middle formation is a middle four of Husidic, Juninho, Kljestan, Ishizaki.
The least desirable of the three is the flat four of Kljestan, Husidic, Juninho, Ishizaki, however, it is also the most traditional and thus the more likely Bruce choice. It's the weakest of the three because it requires two players who are used to being the guy that is supposed to sit back, having to work side by side and develop an understanding about who has to go forward, whereas if you play Kljestan next to Juninho, I think it's understood who the new Sarvas of that tandem is. Regardless, even this lineup is desirable to any pre-Gerrard lineup that involves Sarvas.
In short, Sarvas's strength over Kljestan can be negated when you combine the work of Gerrard to that of Kljestan, and the upgrade in attacking play that Kljestan offers over Sarvas on the wing, is substantial. Kljestan would not only allow us to keep tiki-taco, but improve it. It's a no brainer.
The problem, however, is that fans love Sarvas, so this isn't really about the brain at all. This move will hit Galaxy fans right in the heart, much in the same way the Mike Magee trade did.
Marcello Sarvas was a warrior and if he is traded, it will absolutely break the heart of the sentimentalist in me. I mean, the guy has done so much for this club and deserves every compliment he gets. But the soccer analyst in me will know that this was the right decision, and I will applaud the Galaxy front office for making such a difficult choice.