The Galaxy’s loss is the USMNT’s gain. Bruce Arena officially became the coach of the US national team on Tuesday, leaving the LA Galaxy without a GM, head coach, assistant coach, and two designated players. To say that this offseason is bringing change is an understatement.
Galaxy players may be reunited with their ex-manager much sooner than expected. Soccer media and fans expect Galaxy players to benefit from Bruce’s appointment because trust is important to Bruce, and with the USMNT in an emergency situation, he will use the players he knows will get a result. March 2017 is make or break for the national team. Bruce also knows consistency is important, so being able to throw players that already play together into one unit will help create a strong foundation.
Some Galaxy players are obvious choices (Gyasi Zardes), some are in needed positions (Robbie Rogers), and some are wild cards (Sebastian Lletget and a certain #10 that used to play for Bruce Arena back in the day). Let’s take a look at each:
GYASI ZARDES: This one is a no brainer. He was a mainstay in Jurgen Klinsmann’s camps, and since Bruce himself says that he doesn’t expect to make major changes to the national team roster, Gyasi should earn himself a call back now that he’s healthy. Gyasi was slowly heading towards first team minutes in Los Angeles following healing from his foot injury, and having him start his season earlier would be a boon for LA Galaxy fans looking to see him healthy and in form.
- USMNT Need: #9 hold-up play that’s sorely lacking, physical forward, Clint Dempsey out for the near future, versatile - can also play on the wing. He’s a workhorse, and a physical one at that. Those are in short supply at striker. (even with a first touch that’s lacking)
- Why Bruce Calls Him: will play wherever Bruce needs him to, he’s always a starter for Bruce and has his trust, and will run back 80 yards in minute 86 to play defense.
SEBASTIAN LLETGET: The USMNT badly needs creativity. Any of it. In particular centrally, and to break up the malfunctioning combination of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. You can’t win games if you don’t score goals, and the United States has plodded through too many matches of late being out-created and out-scored.
- USMNT Need: creative central midfielder to pair with Michael Bradley. Need a player more disciplined than Jermaine Jones (think Marcelo Sarvas).
- Why Bruce Calls Him: Lletget saw success at the end of this year when Bruce moved him centrally. This is a deep dark hole on the USMNT that needs to be filled. Sebastian does have some competition here in Nagbe, Kljestan and Feilhaber, so earning any first team minutes will be tough. But he’s got a serious shot of at least going to January camp, in particular with it being in his backyard.
ROBBIE ROGERS: Yes, I’ve seen his crosses that are ballooned into row Z. I’ve also seen him freeze at the sight of the goalkeeper only to meekly cross to ANYONE ELSE showing up in the final 18. But the fact of the matter remains: the US needs fullbacks. ANY FULLBACKS. And there aren’t a waterfall of American standouts at this position in MLS.
- USMNT Need: no, anyone can’t play leftback (thank you, Jurgen). Robbie’s two footed nature, his willingness to do the dirty work and defend, and his consistency in the position are positives on a team that badly needs people to play positions they actually play at their clubs.
- Why Bruce Calls Him: severe lack of fullbacks on the national team. He does manage to get forward, but badly needs to work on his service into the box. That said, again, he actually plays fullback.
LANDON DONOVAN: We need to know if he’s even an active player in 2017 first. One thinks he’s probably waiting to figure out who his boss might be before even considering the option. Bruce also may call him in for his staff rather than as an active player. I would love to suction him to Christian Pulisic as a personal coach since Pulisic’s play is highly reminiscent of LD’s.
- USMNT Need: duh
- Why Bruce Calls Him: leadership presence in locker room, creative brain, symbol of stability, player/coach.
Finally, the (ex) Galaxy player that might be the happiest at this turn of events is Omar Gonzalez. Given a handful of starts, received a stint at DM in the World Cup (still in shock over that one), shuttled out to Siberia, then given a spot back with good play in Mexico. He’s been inconsistent in a USMNT kit like everyone else, but should see an invite at some point to a roster because Bruce knows exactly who he is as a player.
One last note: the new Galaxy head coach may not be happy about having several of his players missing to start pre-season camp. But with the USMNT in dire straits, I expect US Soccer (and Bruce Arena) to say “too bad.” It will be an added complication for whomever is taking over the reins since these players make up a good portion of the expected LA Galaxy starting XI.