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LA Galaxy 2021 Player Postmortem: Daniel Steres

Center back wrapped tenure with another steady season.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Sporting Kansas City Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The trajectory of Daniel Steres’ entire tenure with the LA Galaxy was one of the most interesting low-simmering narratives around the entire MLS. Signed in 2016 to a first-team contract after paying his dues with three seasons in the USL Pro, including two years with LA Galaxy II, I think everyone expected Steres would be a depth center back, make a few starts along the way and pretty much wait in the wings.

But that’s not how it’s gone. After playing nearly every game in 2016, Steres has continually seen players get signed in a bid to supplant him as a starter. Again and again, he’s emerged as a superior option to those players, and played in more than half the games each season.

In 2021, things changed slightly, but the general story still remained the same. Greg Vanney brought in a bunch of players, including two defenders from abroad, and while the center back corps churned all season long, Steres still saw quite a few minutes along the way, even with Vanney clearly wanting to move on from him.

Here are Steres’ stats in 2021:

Daniel Steres 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 13 1,134 0 2 6 1 1 0

I think the reasons Steres isn’t really heralded are pretty clear: He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, so he’ll get beat for pace sometimes, he’ll lose an aerial duel on occasion, he’ll get dragged out of position and miss his man on a goal from time to time.

But that’s kind of missing the forest for the trees: I think Steres is actually quite solid all around. He doesn’t have exceptional athleticism or eyes in the back of his head, but the reason he kept beating competitors for his spot is because he was either just better than the “names” LA were bringing in, or those competitors were making colossal mistakes and didn’t deserve it.

Truthfully, Steres’ level is probably about average by MLS standards, maybe a tick above average. His former center back partner Dave Romney was significantly worse in LA, but he got moved onto Nashville SC, and in a defensive-minded system there he’s coming off a second monster season. If Steres were in that spot? He’d be rated much better than he has been. In effect, the system you’re in and the pieces around you play a big role in determining your level, especially for central defenders.

The Galaxy still haven’t figured out their center back situation. Perhaps Derrick Williams and Sega Coulibaly will find their sea legs in MLS better for 2022, maybe Nick DePuy will continue to grow in his game, maybe they’ll bring in another player or two to compete for starting minutes. But Steres won’t be part of that mix any longer, after he was traded to the Houston Dynamo just over a week ago.

The Dynamo will likely give him regular minutes, and while they’ve been bad most of the past several years, they have played pretty defensively over the years so that could help him. Time will tell on that front.

So I think Steres was unsung at the Galaxy. He wasn’t going to win MLS Defender of the Year in LA, but he wasn’t going to put in nightmare shifts, either. Sometimes, you need steady, not spectacular play, and he offered that.

But time ran out for the local guy with the Galaxy. LA’s defense still needs to be worked out, and Steres was the odd man out. Hopefully the Galaxy can find what they need to click, and hopefully Steres can find a situation where he can get the best support, too. Clearly the continual competition helped push him over the years, but he seems like someone who can motivate himself pretty well. Hopefully it works out for everyone.

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