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LA Galaxy 2021 Player Postmortem: Derrick Williams

Newcomer faced ups and downs in debut MLS campaign.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Williams was an intriguing signing ahead of the 2021 season for the LA Galaxy. The club has obviously had success before with an Irish international on the roster, but aside from Williams’ international pedigree and pro career in England, he was also a marvel of scouting, as a player who would count as a domestic player, due to his American citizenship through his father.

Joining in preseason, the 28-year-old seemed to be in a sweet spot in terms of age, on a team that had struggled to find players in their prime years in recent years. And with the defense needing an upgrade, the hope was that Williams would provide that boost.

The start was quite good, with the Galaxy off to a winning streak and Williams looking good in the opening matches. His highlight was a total fluke of an assist to Chicharito in El Trafico, a trademark rollicking Galaxy win over the crosstown rivals.

Even if the assist was pretty fortunate, Williams was absolutely dominant in that match.

And then a couple weeks later, the momentum came to a skidding halt with a horror tackle on Andy Polo in a game against the Portland Timbers.

This angle doesn’t show the full violence of it, but he was high and forceful, and the injury was horrific, with Polo suffering major quad and knee injuries that required season-ending surgery.

Williams was sent off and then suspended six games total beyond that, which was fair. The Galaxy did not contest the punishment, head coach Greg Vanney admitted repeatedly the tackle was not appropriate, and Williams never fully got back in flow the rest of the season.

Here are Williams’ stats with the Galaxy in 2021:

Derrick Williams 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 21 20 1,669 0 3 16 5 2 1

Williams obviously came back after his suspension and played nearly every minute the rest of the season. But after Vanney admitted the mental toll of making a significant mistake was wearing on the defender during his suspension, he obviously didn’t fly into tackles anymore (for the best) but also looked to be struggling to find his level again. I think that’s understandable, but with the Galaxy defense struggling over the second half of the season, having Williams at not quite peak level didn’t help the unit.

I think the hope is that this offseason, he resets and hopefully comes back with a clear mind and a smart eye for the tackle. He’s known as an aggressive tackler throughout his career, but while his tackle on Polo would also be a red card in England, he may have needed some time to adjust to the standards in MLS. Hopefully that’s happened, he’s come to grips with the level of physicality stateside, and comes back stronger. He’ll be 29 in 2022 and I think Vanney clearly rates him. If he can control the physical side of his play, he can be a strong player on the backline.

But we’ll see if that happens for him next season. 2021 was surely a season of ups and downs for Williams with the Galaxy, and if he can elevate next season, he can be a fixture in the lineup. If not, then the perpetual defensive issues will likely persist for the club.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.