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LA Galaxy 2020 player postmortem: Perry Kitchen

Destroyer did a job, but perhaps a man out of time.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at LA Galaxy Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Perry Kitchen returned for his third season with the LA Galaxy in 2020. After an injury-plagued 2019 campaign restricted him to only eight league appearances that year, he was healthy again and was a fixture in Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s lineup.

As with many Galaxy players in the Schelotto era, I think you can parse Kitchen’s 2020 in a few ways. Did he accomplish his job? Did he have the tactical system and players around him to perform his best? Was he the best option for the role he played?

On the first question, I think it was a mixed bag. Kitchen was the defensive-est of defensive midfielders, and was tasked with most of the dirty work, not only in midfield but all over the field. He was the disruptor, the pest, the player who the opponent was not supposed to like encountering. It’s a thankless job, and is seldom highlighted in any real way, even if it is often a vital role.

The Indianapolis native was prone to the glaring gaffe, but I think over the course of a tough season for the whole squad, he was quietly pretty consistent. Part of a midfield destroyer’s job is to take yellow cards on occasion for the team, literally, and to foul opponents, and to just get stuck in. Honestly, in the circumstances I think he was better at it than most players in that spot would have been, and is therefore somewhat underrated.

What about the second question: Were the tactics and personnel support there? Definitely not. I’m not convinced Kitchen would be a starter on a contender, but he can certainly fit into such a squad. Basically, Kitchen’s job was to put out fires all game, except Schelotto hid most of the fire extinguishers and so he had to kind of wing it. It often looked terrible. And with the shaky defense and goalkeeping behind him, and an anemic attack in front of him, the Galaxy were not a well-oiled machine. So that should be a mark in his favor for performing well enough under the circumstances.

Here’s Kitchen’s stats in 2020:

Perry Kitchen 2020 Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 21 19 1,723 0 0 2 0 6 0

Now, on the third question, if Kitchen was the best man for the job, I think we’ll really get a sense moving forward. Kitchen signed a free agent deal to join Columbus Crew SC for the 2021 season, and I think he’ll be a solid rotation midfielder there.

I also think Kitchen’s brand of destroyer is falling out of vogue in MLS generally. The best defensive midfielders in league history have always brought either superhuman cunning or some scoring, passing or set piece skill on the side to round them out as players. Kitchen didn’t really show any of a more rounded game in his time with the Galaxy, and didn’t really prior to that with D.C. United, either. On one hand, it’s not necessarily his fault there — he’s been doing his thing as a destroyer, it’s not his fault that the game globally and in MLS has moved away from that role on the field in the past several years.

But I think we saw some limits to a guy who can tackle a lot but not much else. And compound that with the Galaxy’s limited tactics and mis-matched lineup, and it didn’t really work.

The reality is Kitchen moving on is good for him and for the Galaxy. Instead of bringing back a veteran, yes, but one who you know exactly what you’re getting at this point in his career, the Galaxy cutting ties with Kitchen and Joe Corona this offseason gives them a chance to start fresh and actually revamp the midfield properly under new head coach Greg Vanney. In a vacuum, Kitchen and Corona and the like did a job reasonably well, but we can all see the results for themselves, and in the case of the midfield I don’t think merely bringing in a competent coach will fix all that ails them. Obviously for Kitchen, he’s joining the defending MLS Cup champs, so he’ll get to play for a presumed contender, so I’m sure he’s happy about it.

And so, that’s the end of Kitchen’s run with the Galaxy. He was probably better in 2020 than the mistakes we remember on the personal “lowlight reel,” but he was not set up to succeed, and MLS tactical changes may be passing him by. He’s a good professional, but it was a good time for all parties to part ways.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.