With the LA Galaxy facing their longest off-season in years, Bruce Arena has a lot of thinking to do, and, according to a report by Adam Serrano, the Galaxy coach is already "pretty far along" in his plans to retool the club.
I think this break will be good, but there are a lot of decisions that we have to make in deciding how we piece together our team next year.
While Arena sighted things like inconsistent player performances, and unfortunately timed player injuries, he also seemingly hinted at possible structural changes to how the Galaxy attack.
We have at times been a team that can attack well, but I think that there are a couple of things that we need to tweak.
Given the Galaxy's current attacking arsenal of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos, Steven Gerrard, Sebastian Lletget, Gyasi Zardes, Jose Villarreal, Raul Mendiola, Juninho etc..., it's most unlikely that Arena will make any major moves for potential attacking starters, however, there are two possible scenarios to look out for which could radically change this.
1. Juninho goes to Europe
In a recent article in the LA Times, it was revealed that Juninho's agent is exploring options in Europe after seeing Juninho's role diminish after the arrival of Steven Gerrard. While this could very well be a ploy to get Juninho a bigger contract, if Juninho were to make a move to Europe, as good as Kenney Walker was this year, it's hard to see the Galaxy not making a move to replace the Brazilian.
This is worrying for a big reason. Last year, the Galaxy signed Mika Vayrynen with the intention of playing him as a center mid in a 4-4-2. While his experience was undeniable, his reputation and playing style was a pretty good predictor of how poorly he would fit our system. You see, Mika Vayryen in his prime had a reputation for not being spatially aware on defense. Vayrynen was a disaster at Heerenveen in 2010 when played as a double pivot cdm in a 4-2-3-1, but excelled for them when they switched to a 4-1-4-1 and was moved forward and given less defensive responsibility.
In short, nothing about Mika Vayrynen's past indicated that he'd be a good fit for our 4-4-2, and yet, the Galaxy acquired him anyway and tried their best to squeeze him into it during the early season. Of course, with the stellar play of Juninho and the impending arrival of Gerrard, this was a scouting error that they could afford to make. If the Galaxy have to replace Juninho this off-season, there will be no such wiggle room. They absolutely need the perfect fit.
2. Zardes goes to Europe
This one is rather complicated for a number of reasons. For starters, it's unclear how serious the overseas interest is. Secondly, it's unclear whether the Galaxy or Zardes himself are interested in such a transfer. Third, even if Zardes does leave, it really depends on what Zardes' role is in Arena's plan for next year.
If Bruce Arena intends to stick with the Robbie Keane / Giovani dos Santos forward pairing, Zardes doesn't necessarily have to be replaced at all, given the talent of Jose Villarreal, Ignacio Maganto and Raul Mendiola as wingers.
If Arena opts to move Gio into the midfield and use Zardes as a forward, however, then LA would need to go out and find a forward since Alan Gordon is best utilized as a sub.
Bruce Arena has always been a fan of the classic number 9 and that's arguably what this attack needs most right now. While the Galaxy have missed the mark of late on these signings, (Friend, Samuel) it's still a good bet that the Galaxy will be on the hunt for a target striker if Zardes leaves.
While the offense hit a major stumbling block at the end of the season, the pieces are essentially there to fix the problem. The defense, however, might be in for an overhaul.
Given the Galaxy's current financial situation in regard to targeted allocation money (which will be needed to keep Omar Gonzalez), it's quite possible that the Galaxy will not be able to hold on to their star defender, and, as shaky as Gonzalez was last season, losing Omar would still be a major shake-up to the Galaxy defense.
While the emergence of Dave Romney has made the Galaxy's possible impending center back shortage less dire, it's still likely that Arena and company will spend the off-season looking for a big and burly centerback, which has been Bruce Arena's model for the position for years.
But there is another way this scenario could go. If AJ DeLaGarza is moved back to centerback, and with the retirement of Todd Dunivant, the Galaxy could very well go after a high-dollar full-back. In fact, if dos Santos ends up as an inverted right winger, a speedy offensively gifted right back would be ideal to offer width on the outside as Gio cuts it, in addition to providing recovery speed to cleanup behind Gio who may or may not be up for defending. If the Galaxy opt to go this route, expect the club to look to Europe as that is where the two-way nature of modern fullbacks is most strong.
Most pressing, however, is the need for a goalkeeper. Donovan Ricketts isn't getting any younger, and he's already at a point in his career where he's making potentially game costing mistakes far more regularly than you'd like from your starting keeper. While Bruce Arena can often be tough to read, I'd bet the farm on this one. The Galaxy will go after a keeper. Who that might be, however, is anyone's guess.
In the end, the Galaxy's late season woes had little to do with the players on the field, but rather, how they were being utilized. Bruce Arena's true task in the office season will not be to go out and find impact players save for a keeper and possibly a fullback, but rather, to rebuild the Galaxy system in such a way that it accommodates the talent the Galaxy already have.