At the beginning of the season, the question on everybody's mind was how the LA Galaxy were going to replace Landon Donovan. Early speculation was that Ishizaki was going to step up and shoulder more of the load while youngsters like Ignacio Maganto, Bradford Jamieson IV and Jose Villarreal, would step up and shoulder the rest. While the latter has happened, the former has not and the Galaxy struggled in the early season as a result.
Then came Sebastian Lletget. This kid burst on to the scene looking like a young Landon Donovan, scoring goals and creating shots like it was going out of style. It was a huge signing for the Galaxy that bolstered both their attack and corps of young talent. But the Galaxy weren't done yet.
Behind the scenes, the league was hard at work at crafting a mechanism that would allow teams like the Galaxy to retain a player like Omar Gonzalez without having to use a traditional DP slot. Relishing this new freedom to pursue yet another big name player, the Galaxy set their sights high and have reportedly signed Mexican star Giovani dos Santos, to fill the hole left by Landon Donovan.
But is Gio really that kind of talent, and if so, why wasn't his La Liga club Villarreal getting offers from European clubs? While part of it may have to do with his party boy reputation, something we will explore in another article, part of it probably has to do with his 2014 season with Villarreal which was widely considered to be a poor one by the standards of his talent.
In 2014, Gio struggled with injures and for playing time in La Liga, and as a result, his goals and assists numbers were quite low. Despite this, if you look at his expected goal and expected assist rates per 90 minutes, his season wasn't nearly as bad as it's been made to have been. He played about half the minutes that Landon Donovan played in MLS last year, but here are their numbers side by side.
While not as prolific as Landon Donovan's numbers, Gio's totals are by no means poor. If you consider the fact that Gio's minutes were inconsistent and that Donovan benefited from playing on a team that absolutely dominated the league, thus boosting his chance creation numbers, it's not hard to imagine Giovani dos Santos being able to step into the league and put up numbers close to Landon's.
What's more, even if he can't, the boost from Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Lletget should more than make up for this deficit. In fact, if Bruce lines this team up the way I think he plans to, the Galaxy midfield will easily be the most talented this league has ever seen.
With 3 world class players in Gio, Gerrard and Keane and a player in Sebastian Lletget who may very well be the US's next big star, this multi-headed attack puts Seattle's so called Hydra to shame. In fact, if Seattle's attack gets to be called the Hydra, then this Galaxy team may as well be called the Typhon because this attack could easily straight up embarrass Zeus himself.
Besides the shear talent, this attack is deadly because its main players understand space and their danger is not limited to the traditional areas associated with where they lineup. When put on the wings, Giovani dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget are perfect examples of modern wingers. Unlike someone like Stefan Ishizaki, these two will look to cut inside whenever possible in order to shoot and create shots for others. Having a left back like Robbie Rogers whose hustle to get up and down the line and positional sense to know where he needs to be to help the attack by offering a wide passing outlet (thus his ridiculous 12.2% touch rate), will allow Gio to work inside with regularity.
Robbie Keane is also known for drifting all over the field. If Keane moves back or to the wings, either Gerrard or one of the wingers will take his place. These players can rotate positioning and since the talent is spread so evenly, if teams dare try to overload one area defensively, they''ll just get burned where their undermanned.
Usually I caution against such overkill attacking lineups as they tend to be deeply flawed from a defensive standpoint, however, I don't believe this to be the case with this lineup specifically. If Gerrard doesn't have the legs to play a complete box to box game, Lletget can act as cover. He has the legs and his defensive action rate per 90 so far this season has been as impressive as his offensive numbers. In fact, the collective defensive actions of this midfield will probably not be all that far off from the 2014 midfield of Donovan, Juninho, Sarvas, and Ishizaki.
As if all of this wasn't enough, the Galaxy will have multiple bench players that could easily start for most MLS teams. You want a midfield spark? Throw in Jose Villarreal or Ignacio Maganto. You want set piece magic? Put in Gordon or Ishizaki. You want more box to box work in the midfield? Put in Husidic or Walker. You want a forward who can get behind the attack with speed and anticipation? Put in Bradford Jamieson IV.
All of this depth will also allow the Galaxy to make a serious run at the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League without having to make roster sacrifices that could hurt them in the league. Obviously MLS Cup is still the priority, but with this kind of depth, this team is built for more.
If the Gio reports are true (and it definitely appears that they are) then the LA Galaxy have managed to build the scariest attack in MLS history. Whether or not they actually go on to live up to this title remains to be seen. Without question, they have the talent. All they have to do is find a way to put it all together.
What are your thoughts? Is this the best MLS team ever assembled? Let us know in the comments section.