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LA Galaxy 2021 Player Postmortem: Adam Saldaña

Homegrown made a step up to MLS.

MLS: Portland Timbers at LA Galaxy Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It was pretty obvious the LA Galaxy needed some younger legs in central midfield in 2021, and the club addressed that, notably by bringing in Adam Saldaña as a homegrown signing and playing him real minutes early in the campaign.

Saldaña was a Galaxy academy product coming off a strong season for LA Galaxy II in 2020. A pure holding midfielder, I think some fans were surprised to see him getting slotted into the lineup straightaway, but it seemed likely heading into the season based on what Greg Vanney did in preseason and the options available at a defensive mid position.

Believe it or not, LA won four of the five games in which Saldaña started. I’m not saying he’s the reason they won those games, but just because he didn’t have name recognition didn’t mean he was torpedoing the side.

Here are Saldaña’s stats at MLS level in 2021:

Adam Saldaña 2021 LA Galaxy Statistics

2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2021 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS 18 5 664 0 0 3 2 2 0

After getting to start the first three games, Saldaña did seem to start hitting a wall at a higher level and he mostly became a bench option the rest of the season. I think that made sense — Jonathan dos Santos offered far more playmaking ability, plus he was the captain, Rayan Raveloson ate up the minutes after his arrival, and Vanney seemed to rotate his holding mid options as he sought to find the right balance (which never quite happened in 2021) in the lineup.

Holding mids are the archetypal “water carriers” on a team and so their virtues are often difficult to discern, especially if they are more destroyers than anything. Saldaña’s pass completion rate was a tick off 100 percent, which at first I misread, until I realized that made sense, since his job is to strip the ball off the opposition and then get it to a teammate ASAP.

The 19-year-old got two starts late in the season with LA Galaxy II, but the bulk of his minutes came with the first team this year. I think he laid a marker down for the future, but now we’ll see what the future brings.

With dos Santos departing and other changes in midfield likely this offseason, it will be interesting to see where Saldaña is in the depth chart when the 2022 season rolls around. He’s still pretty young, and I don’t think I expect him to become a regular starter, but if he’s shown growth in his game, who knows? Having said that, given the Galaxy’s track record of bringing homegrown players through and then just signing big names over them anyway, it’s hard to say for sure he’ll get a chance to really compete for a spot.

So time will tell. I think Saldaña had a decent start to his MLS career, but he is still getting used to the pace of the top flight and it’s about growth and finding the right situation. Will that happen in 2022? We’ll see.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.