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LA Galaxy 2020 player postmortem: Daniel Steres

The man just will not give up his spot in the lineup.

MLS: LA Galaxy at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Steres is a Rorschach test of sorts among the LA Galaxy fanbase. The second-longest tenured player on the first-team squad and with experience dating back even further to LA Galaxy II, the defender in many respects is an underdog story, a tale of the club finding a player who hadn’t latched on elsewhere in MLS and finding value for years on end from giving him a second chance. At the same time, Steres is a player the front office seems to have openly been trying to replace for years, and many fans agree with that sentiment.

Steres returned for his fifth season with the Galaxy first team in 2020. He’s started at least half of the team’s regular-season games every season, and the majority of the time he’s started nearly every game in a given season. He’s been a lock in the back, basically.

The center back has size, experience, some leadership on the field and off, and in spite of the desire to move on from him, you have to admire his ability to hold off challengers. The Galaxy keep bringing in center backs imported from abroad, and more often than not, he manages to keep his place when they fail to perform.

Here are Steres’ stats in 2020:

Daniel Steres 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 20 20 1,800 1 0 9 3 3 0

The flipside to this defense of Steres is the Galaxy’s track record in his tenure on the first team. The Galaxy have reached the playoffs just twice in five seasons, which is far off the standard set at the club.

And the defense has not held up its end of the bargain for a long time. In 2020 they allowed the second-most goals in the league. In 2019 they were better, 18th-worst in goals allowed, out of 24 teams. In 2018, they were 19th out of 23, in 2017, they were 21st out of 22. Only 2016’s record of 39 goals allowed, in 34 games, which was good for a tie for second in the league, was even remotely respectable.

Obviously Steres is not the person who’s made the defense fall apart, and on the mistake meter, he’s not even one of the biggest culprits. Plus, I think coaching has played a big role in the defensive struggles, so that’s obviously not on the player.

Still, the common thread through all of this has been...uneven investment in the squad, yes, poor personnel decisions in signing defenders, right, and subpar coaching. But Steres too.

So I get why he is seen as a sign of their problems, but I also think there’s a good case to be made that Steres can do a job, and maybe he really can be a good MLS defender on a contender with the right backline, goalkeeper, rest of the lineup and coach in place. I think there’s a good chance that’s the case, in fact. But I also see why he’s a spot where the Galaxy should be looking to upgrade.

The fact is the Galaxy have needed to remake the defense throughout Steres’ tenure, and they seem to be working on it. I think Greg Vanney will take a group that’s going to have a lot of familiar faces and improve it substantially, too, I really do.

So at this point, I expect Steres to start for the Galaxy in 2021. Hey, he’s done it this long, and with a coach who’s been good at marshaling a defense, he could finally prove all the doubters wrong. His persistence is impressive in its own way. And we may get a sense once and for all if Steres was trying to hold it together the past four years, to little avail, or if he’s really not at starting level in MLS. It’s going to be a fascinating subplot.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.