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Imminent Ashley Cole transfer indicative of larger problems within the LA Galaxy

How the LA Galaxy are being left behind in a changing soccer world.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

According to recent reports in the LA Times, the LA Galaxy's move for Ashley Cole is nearing completion, and, while details are sparse, it appears the Galaxy will be using the $800,000 in targeted allocation money awarded to them at the beginning of the year, to do so.

On its face, the Ashley Cole move may seem completely unexplainable, given his age and the amount the Galaxy would be paying him, but when you consider the way the Galaxy operate, it makes perfect sense. It's still a bad move, but it's one that is ultimately predictable given their record.

Arena likes to go after known commodities, and this has served him well on many occasions. Robbie Rogers and Sebastian Lletget, for instance, were great pick-ups from Europe, but neither of them were truly "unearthed" because they were well known. The technique also has a history of backfiring massively, which has resulted in the Galaxy bringing in players who are over the hill, such as Mika Vayrynen, Edson Buddle, Rob Friend, and Carlo Cudicini as well as paying players like Stefan Ishizaki way more than average MLS value relative to production level.

For an organization that prides itself on being innovators and trailblazers, the LA Galaxy are falling woefully behind in their scouting methodology. While the rest of the world is rethinking the way they go about scouting (a few MLS teams included), the LA Galaxy do not have a dedicated data analyst on staff. While it is unclear what their exact scouting methodology is, it certainly appears to be very "old school." This, in itself, would be fine if their success rate was on the level of a Portland or RSL before the departure of Kreis and Lagerwey, or maintained the spending efficiency on under the cap players at the level of RSL 2010-2013 or SKC 2012-present.

Long story short, the LA Galaxy have a history of overpaying for their production (see 2014 here and 2013 here), and the acquisition of Ashley Cole will be little more than a continuation of the same.

But is Ashley Cole really that bad? Probably not, but he's certainly not worth the TAM if that is indeed how the Galaxy intend to acquire him. The fundamental problem with Ashley Cole is his age. Cole is 35-years old and his minutes have been in decline since 2010.

In a recent article on Dollars and Decisions, a study was done to construct aging curves for MLS players. In said article, we see that minutes for defenders start to go down at age 26. Ashley Cole is well into his decline. This can also be seen when looking at his defensive actions.

(I should note that I'm only using defensive actions to show a decline and not to compare to other players. To properly compare players, adjusting for passes against is needed. I don't have this data available to me, but this article and this article, should give some data context to how Chelsea defended in the 2013/2014 season)

Aside from his age, a move for Ashley Cole simply isn't cost effective. There are many talented fullbacks in South America and from leagues where the transfer fees are quite low and within TAM range. So why go after Ashley Cole at a higher price point and for fewer years?

Assuming Ashley Cole will be able to contribute significant minutes, it's logical that Robbie Rogers would move to right back and AJ  DeLaGarza would move to center back. Since AJ could just as easily be moved to CB by playing Dan Gargan, the question becomes, is a 35-year old Ashley Cole $800,000 better than a 33-year old Dan Gargan? Given the limited minutes you'd expect out of him, and the serviceable nature of Dan Gargan at right back, he's probably not even worth $300,000 more.

And here is the bottom-line. Landon Donovan is gone. Robbie Keane is 35-years old and probably won't be around for too much longer. Even if Steven Gerrard has the season everyone is hoping for next year, the age issue still comes into play. As an organization, the Galaxy have no trouble going out and acquiring marquee names, but if they want to succeed in the years ahead as they transition from the Donovan/Keane era, they'll have to do it with young talent from the academy and thrifty spending on players under the cap, and, while they are set up nicely for the first part, there is ample evidence to suggest they are falling behind in the second.