Much has been made about the additions LA Galaxy GM Dennis te Kloese has planned this offseason, his first in charge of the club.
Star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has already moved on. Uriel Antuna plays for Chivas. Diego Polenta returned to South America to be closer to family. The club also announced the trade of utility defender Dave Romney, leaving the Galaxy with holes to fill in their starting lineup and throughout the rotation.
The G’s will be looking for players currently on the roster to take advantage of the opportunities before them and capitalize on the chance at seeing increased playing time. With a Zlatan sized hole in attack to be filled and a defense still under construction, these current members of the LA Galaxy should be eager to show they’re the right men for the job in training.
Here’s a look at those Guillermo Barros Schelotto and his staff will be looking to see make significant jumps in their contributions for 2020.
Julian Araujo / Defender
It’s no secret the Galaxy are looking to improve a leaky defensive unit. Some of the Galaxy’s defensive woes can be attributed to overly aggressive tactics from GBS, especially in closer games which have made LA frustratingly susceptible to opposing counter attacks on a consistent basis.
Not all the Galaxy’s shortcomings protecting the net have originated from tactical shortcomings, as regular starters found themselves out of position on opposing goals on a consistent basis. A late season loss in Seattle in which the Galaxy conceded four goals, including a Christian Roldan winner to break a 3-3 tie in the 89th minute served as a frustrating reminder of the Galaxy’s inability to defend in crucial situations.
The 18-year-old Araujo showed brilliant flashes in both a traditional right back and a wing-back role throughout the entirety of the 2019 season, but his involvement and growth within the first team were stunted by a mid-season trip to the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup with the United States.
Araujo’s passing range and versatility in defense can make him a valuable commodity of the Galaxy rotation in the upcoming season.
With these departures for the Galaxy defense, there is a growing need to energize a defensive unit which allowed 59 goals last season, the worst of any playoff team in the MLS. The former FC Barcelona Residential Academy prospect can provide a spark going forward, with decent pace and on-ball skills to bring the ball upfield and deliver crosses from the wing.
While inexperience and size may be obstacles, Araujo has shown enough to warrant an extended run with the first team after making 10 starts in 18 MLS appearances last season.
Efrain Alvarez / Attacking midfielder
Alvarez’s youth may have the Galaxy coaching staff hesitant to fully integrate him into the rotation but he’s on the first team for good reason.
An immensely talented attacking prospect still growing into his body, it’s imperative he’s treated with patience and support in his development as a player. It’s also crucial he’s given the opportunity to learn from inevitable mistakes by receiving continued playing time through rough patches of form.
Understandably Barros Schelotto and his staff were extremely cautious in integrating Efrain Alvarez into the rotation last season, given that he began the year at only 16 years of age. However Alvarez’s recent performances for Mexico in the U-17 FIFA World Cup this offseason raised eyebrows nationwide and certainly within the club.
México is in the U-17 World Cup Final!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 15, 2019
Efrain Alvarez's free kick equalizer vs the Netherlands helped #ElTri reach the shootout, where they prevailed to set up a date with Brazil.
Watch Sunday's #U17WC Final at 5pm ET, live on FS2 and the FOX Sports App. pic.twitter.com/hIT7Ao2O0y
With a season under his belt to familiarize himself with the rigors of the league, Alvarez should be given more playing time in 2020.
Cristian Pavón / Attacking midfielder and Designated Player
And now the obvious one.
On the outskirts of the Boca Juniors rotation, Cristian Pavon was recruited in part to reunite Pavon with the manager who kickstarted his career in Guillermo Barros Schelotto. However it shouldn’t be overlooked why the Galaxy brought the one time Paris Saint Germain target to Los Angeles.
Although Pavon doesn’t necessarily check all the physical boxes of a typical number nine “striker” there’s certainly no reason to believe he can’t take the reins and lead the Galaxy attack for the 2020 season from the wing or in a more central role.
The 23-year-old Argentine winger showed flashes of brilliance for the Galaxy last season, making clever runs, incisive passes and testing opposing keepers with dangerous shots on a weekly basis.
Pavon’s brilliance was on full display in individual flashes against LAFC and Real Salt Lake last season, and he’ll be looking to leave an impression on Galaxy fans in his first full season with the club after starting in all 11 of his MLS appearances last season.
With the man who scored 30 of the team’s 58 league goals last season no longer in the building, Pavon will have every opportunity to take the crown as LA’s lead goalscorer. The increased workload, expectations, and responsibility for the 23 year old Pavon represents a true test, with 2020 serving as a crucial year in his quest to restart career progression and eventually secure a possible move to Europe.