Galaxy fans were understandably disappointed when defender Diego Polenta announced he would not be returning to the Galaxy in 2020. An engaging fun locker room presence, the Uruguayan led the back line and also had a knack for contributing in the final third. He will be missed.
But was Polenta worth the reported $777,000 he was set to earn in 2020?
I don't buy the official explanation. The club didn't want to pay him the $777K his contract called for last season and he didn't want to take a cut. https://t.co/uQqWOVVsqY— Kevin Baxter (@kbaxter11) November 22, 2019
Back in early January LA Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese hired Guillermo Barros Schelotto to lead the club into a new era. The next day the duo were on a plane to Orlando, heading to Exploria Stadium to scout the MLS Combine.
With the restructuring of the front office occurring so late in conjunction with a bloated mess of a salary cap situation, te Kloese neither had the time nor the funds (or even the scouts!) to construct a roster in normal circumstances. Rather the pair leaned heavily on connections and worked hard to acquire a number of attacking talents on loan to help fill the gaps.
The issue with loans of course, is that eventually you have to pay up. However in contrast to the helter-skelter building of yesteryear, te Kloese has wisely chosen to apply a value-based approach to the decision-making process.
It all starts of course with the big man himself, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Keeping Ibra, triple digit goal tally and all, would have relegated LA to another year of one-dimensional football and crippling defensive breakdowns. You can’t play 10 v. 11 in defense, and David Bingham didn’t lead the league in saves by accident.
Furthermore Zlatan’s antics towards his teammates produced diminishing returns and eventually became a genuine problem. As ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle points out in a recent piece, sources claimed Giancarlo Gonzalez suffered a verbal lashing from Ibra early into his Galaxy career and never recovered. Nostalgia aside, it was best for both parties to move on.
Favio Alvarez arrived on loan from Atlético Tucumán and showed flashes, but the Argentine playmaker didn’t excel at anything in particular and wasn’t starting by the end of the campaign. A valuable asset, but LA were right not to shell out millions in transfer fees to make the loan permanent. (That being said, three assists in two regular season Traficos means Favio will always be a LAFC slayer)
Uriel Antuna is another player who, as much as the club would love to bring back, is more of a want than a need given the circumstances. Despite an agreement with Manchester City that allows LA to match bids from other clubs for the emerging Mexican international, te Kloese strongly suggested during the exit interviews that the Galaxy would not pursue that avenue. There’s no denying the value of a player who has attracted heavy interest from Benfica and Chivas, but his limited production means the Galaxy shouldn’t offer Uriel anything above TAM range.
Even the dependable Diego Polenta was scheduled to earn over three quarters of a million dollars next season. Best not to make that mistake again.
Conclusion: Don’t call it a rebuild
With a number of departures taking place there is temptation to label the 2019 offseason a rebuilding project, but Guillermo Barros Schelotto has funds and a number of pieces to work with including a midfield spine of Jona dos Santos, Cristian Pavon, Sebastian Lletget and Joe Corona.
It seems for the first time since the Bruce Arena era the scrutiny of player contracts has sharply increased. Ultimately LA had the oppurtunity to acquire a number of players permanently but the numbers didn’t add up and te Kloese refused to pull the trigger every time.