It took less than an hour after Zlatan’s farewell announcement for MLS senior writer Matt Doyle to pinpoint why the LA Galaxy are best served moving on from the big Swede. Long story short, no amount of goals can compensate for playing 10 v. 11 defensively as LA were forced to do with the 38-year old on the pitch.
Bittersweet as Ibra’s departure may be, influential GM Dennis de Kloese and manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto now have the freedom to transition the club into a new era as they can construct a coherent attacking identity and seek out talent to fit the system vs. acquiring a collection of marketable players as LA have done over the years.
I’m on the outside looking in on this one.....@LAGalaxy are better off and their fans should be pumped to see what comes out of this. 50+ Goals in 2 seasons is insane BUT defending with 9 is equally insane. #MLS https://t.co/HQfRae0M7J— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) November 13, 2019
This change in philosophy has been coming for some time now. Like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, David Beckham was a defensive liability during his time in LA but the competition refused to punish the Galaxy midfield’s shortcomings and Becks captured the 2011 and 2012 MLS Cups as a result.
Years later the jig was already up. Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos were two expensive mistakes that didn’t pan out for different reasons, but both were signed with the expectations of performing on and off the field without sufficient consideration as to whether they were ideal fits. (Famously Bruce Arena did not want the older dos Santos, but that’s football)
Zlatan was brilliant in 2018 and 2019. Absolutely brilliant. 52 goals in 53 starts brilliant. Conversely the defense was shambolic, and while we’ll always wonder how the team would have finished with a healthy Romain Alessandrini available all year long, ultimately the Galaxy were never MLS Cup contenders.
In the modern game individual talent can’t hold a candle to a well-drilled unit, and the relative parity of a league that’s grown considerably more competitive over the years in MLS means LA no longer have the luxury of cutting corners. With the club’s method of acquiring superstars producing diminishing returns, now is the time for the Galaxy to adopt a more practical method of signing Designated Players.