Steven Gerrard's magnificent career at Liverpool will be over by this time next week.
He'll pack his bags, say his goodbyes, make appearances, fly to Los Angeles, unpack his bags, say his hellos, make appearances, and then hopefully provide something meaningful to the LA Galaxy.
Gerrard gave every piece of his heart and soul to Liverpool during his time there, and that is admirable beyond measure, not to mention incredibly rare, for a footballer of his quality. He gave up multiple opportunities to join title-winning, mechanized behemoths of international destruction helmed by evil geniuses like Jose Mourinho and chose instead to stay with Liverpool and fight the good fight.
The good fight never paid off for him in the English Premier League, and all of his 502 Premier League appearances and 119 goals came without a single title, however that same fight propelled his Liverpool team to a thrilling UEFA Champions League victory over AC Milan in 2005.
Gerrard has seen the mountaintop in the world of club football. He's been about as many places as one can be in the sport, and that's why he is undeniably a legendary figure.
But that's over.
For all that Steven Gerrard has been, it's important to shed the nostalgia just for a long enough time that he can be seen as what he is now. According to Gerrard, Brendan Rodgers didn't see him as a starter in Liverpool's squad anymore. His switch to MLS is a step he's taking to keep playing games and making an impact on the team for which he's playing, and that's admirable.
He'll be a starter for the Galaxy because he's being given far too much money to sit on the bench. So if plenty of football is what Steven Gerrard wants, it's plenty of football he'll get.
The easy counterargument to being excited about Steven Gerrard is pointing out that he's old, he's on the outs with Brendan Rodgers as far as being a fixture in the team, and he might not take MLS seriously (you've all seen the comments he made, do with them what you will).
It's true, those are all real concerns, as is using said aging Designated Player as a stopgap option in an anemic midfield, especially given the less-than-stellar track record of attacking DPs who arrive in the July window.
The previous two paragraphs coupled with the unrealistic expectation that Gerrard is going to save LA's season is reason enough to be less than excited about Steven Gerrard's arrival.
Another reason is because LA just hit rock bottom. A 4-0 loss to an expansion team who, up to that point, had yet to win a game at home is the pinnacle of embarrassment at this stage of the season. What's worse is the way that they lost that game. It was by way of a shambolic performance in which the midfield might as well have not even existed. I'm truly concerned for the Galaxy's midfield because there doesn't seem to be an existing combination that works. None of the available personnel have been able to come together to be anything more than mediocre yet this year. Jose Villarreal is back now, but he's a wide midfielder. Robbie Keane will come back someday, but he's a forward.
The central midfield vacuum is in real danger of continuing to suck.
So, what I guess I'm saying is: What do we get out of Steven Gerrard, besides a shiny new toy with a big name?
Does he have it in him? Is he emotionally ready for this? I want to believe that he can pull himself away from Liverpool and be an effective, committed member of the Galaxy, but the room for doubt is real and the switch he's about to make is an incredibly large undertaking.
But let's say he is ready, mentally and physically, to contribute to a team which desperately needs something.
Immediately, he brings a leadership presence and a sense of accountability that maybe the Galaxy have lacked this year after the departure of big, important names and a rotating, discontinuous set of lineups. If the fire is still burning in Stevie G, he'll be amazing for that locker room.
Even if he is, there is still the question of what he brings to the field of play in a Galaxy uniform. He's a pure No. 8 who is capable of spreading the ball around and helping a team own possession. He's also a killer on free kicks. He offers you something going forward as well.
What he is NOT is a No. 10. He's not an advanced attacking midfielder who can spray dimes into the box and be the chance creator that guys like Gyasi Zardes need to be effective goal scorers. Unfortunately, that is exactly what LA needs right now. Even more unfortunately, I'm afraid that's what a lot of fans are expecting.
The bottom line is, though Gerrard is certainly an upgrade over any of the central midfield options we have now, he's not the guy that the LA Galaxy need if they want to reestablish themselves as a contender by getting back to what they did so well the previous few seasons.
Also, the Galaxy still have plenty of games to play between now and G-day, and if they don't start winning a few of them, it isn't going to matter what Stevie brings to the table because they will have dug themselves too deep a hole for any one man to drag them out of. Honestly, that might be the biggest reason to temper the excitement revolving around Gerrard's arrival. There are almost two months and a lot of games between now and July, and the Galaxy are in rough shape. The disconnect between the forward and midfield lines is a problem that needs to be solved now, otherwise the season could be all but over by July, excluding an unbelievable run of form that carries them from July all the way through December and to MLS Cup 2015.
Steven Gerrard has one (1) assist this season in the Premier League. Gyasi Zardes needs service to be a viable option. If those two playing together are supposed to be the answer to Galaxy fans' prayers, then it's a poor answer. Ideally, Sebastian Lletget, Robbie Keane, Gyasi, and Stevie G can form into a fearsome foursome of attacking power in the future and play a style that, even if it isn't tiki-taco, can still produce goals. For that fantasy to come true, the only option is to take the 'wait and see' approach, which requires time because a whole new kind of chemistry needs to be built between those players.
As I wrote earlier, time is not on the side of the LA Galaxy.
At the end of the day, I think Steven Gerrard is a legendary figure whose career has been deserving of all the praise it has warranted. What I don't think, is that Steven Gerrard is the guy who can turn this season around, and I certainly don't think he's any sort of viable long term option.
The thing about being a Galaxy fan is that you get used to being spoiled. In recent years, we've had the greatest American player to ever lace up a pair of boots, the greatest Designated Player in MLS history, David freakin' Beckham, a coach that took the US Men's National Team to the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup, and we're currently sitting on five MLS Cup titles (the most of any team, by the way. Have you heard?). But now that things are starting to change a little, and the struggles are more complex and pronounced, we're frantically searching for a way to get back to the pinnacle of what an MLS team can be by throwing our hopes on guys like Villarreal, Lletget, and Ignacio Magnato. Now, we're hoping that Steven Gerrard is The Answer because we can see that this season is losing traction every week. But it might not be a bad idea to prepare for the possibility that this season isn't going to turn into a fairy tale, and that he is not The Answer. In fact, we might not even be asking the right question.