It's no secret that the LA Galaxy midfield has seen its share of struggles in the attacking third since the beginning of the 2015 MLS season. In fact, the rotating cast of characters that has made up this year's midfield has been anemic to the point where Alan Gordon is the club's leading scorer, sitting on three goals ahead of Robbie Keane (2) and a slew of others at one goal apiece.
To be clear, this is no dig at Alan Gordon, whose goals have come at great times for the Galaxy. He's rescued them from the jaws of defeat more than once this season, and that's exactly what a team needs from a big target forward if they want to be successful throughout a long season.
However, if you told me at the beginning of the season that Alan Gordon was going to be the Galaxy's leading scorer come May in a team with weapons like Gyasi Zardes, Robbie Keane, Jose Villarreal, and Bradford Jamieson IV, I would be shocked. If you added the caveat that LA's leading scorer would only have three goals under his belt at this point, I would also be shocked. Maybe even more shocked. Shocked-er.
If you were to give me five minutes to reason through those two pieces of heavy, disheartening information, though, I'd probably tell you that they make sense together.
Three isn't a very high number. What that means is that chance creation from the run of play isn't happening at a high rate. The Galaxy have scored a total of five goals from open play through their ten matches played, which accounts for only half of their total goals. That is incredibly strange from a team that has built their style upon ripping apart really, really good teams with killer passes from the run of play. In fact, each of Gordon's three goals this season have come by way of set pieces.
Gordon is an assassin in the air, but if Los Angeles wants to follow up last year's success with more success, they can't just rely on him to squeak out points. At some point, the rest of the team needs to start producing, and that starts in the midfield. LA's passing percentages in the final third in each of their games played this season are as follows: 72%, 59%, 69%, 59%, 63%, 72%, 52%, 47%, 57%.
One of those 72% marks came during a Galaxy victory over the Chicago Fire on opening weekend where both goals, scored by Robbie Keane and Jose Villarreal, came from the run of play and the Galaxy looked like a competent attacking side. The other came during a 1-0 Galaxy victory over the best team in the league, the Seattle Sounders.
What is clear is that the Galaxy are able to get good results when they control the ball in the attacking third, but any sort of consistency in doing so has been hard to come by. Statistically, Stefan Ishizaki leads the team with three assists, followed by Jose Villarreal with two, but the majority of those also come by way of set pieces. To this point, there has not been any sort of reliable chance creation from the midfield during the run of play.
Let's not forget that Bruce Arena saw these kinds of problems developing during the off-season, which is a big reason that the Galaxy made a push for Sacha Kljestan, who ended up signing for the Red Bulls. The good news is that Steven Gerrard is on his way. What you can expect to get out of Steven Gerrard if you're Bruce Arena is a very good No. 8 who can make a big impact on both sides of the ball while controlling play while in possession. Not being able to dictate the pace of the game in the final third is one of the reasons that passing percentages and goals from the run of play have been so low. A team needs a leader in the midfield with patience and timing, and the Galaxy haven't had that so far. Baggio Husidic hasn't been able to do it, Juninho isn't the same player he was when Marcelo Sarvas was at the club, Stefan Ishizaki has whipped in a considerable amount of aimless crosses, and Mika Vayrynen has been... well... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
But one man does not a midfield make. Steven Gerrard is a huge step up from what the Galaxy have been working with so far this year, but he's not a pure attacking midfielder. He can't be expected to create ALL of the chances that LA needs to if they are going to be a playoff team by himself.
That's where Sebastian Lletget comes in. He's a pure attacking midfielder by trade, and has five years of West Ham experience under his belt (sort of), along with plenty of time spent with the youth national team system. At 22 years old, he should be able to form a partnership with Gerrard very quickly. Stick a player like him in front of a world-class No. 8 and suddenly the Galaxy midfield looks completely different than it does now.
It's not going to be immediate, because building effective midfield partnerships and turning them into productive combinations takes time. So in the mean time, Bruce Arena is going to have to figure out how to win games with the guys he has at his disposal.
However, that shouldn't stop you from SALIVATING over the endless possibilities that could arise from a Steven Gerrard-Sebastian Lletget-Robbie Keane combination come July, supplemented by players like Gyasi Zardes, Bradford Jamieson, and Jose Villarreal.
The best case scenario for Sebastian Lletget in a Galaxy uniform is that he experiences a Brek Shea-esque career resurgence after being unable to break through with West Ham. At age 22, and under the tutelage of top quality players such as Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, the opportunity for success is there for the taking.