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LA Galaxy 2022 Player Postmortem: Eriq Zavaleta

Veteran brought defensive depth.

Atlanta United FC v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Eriq Zavaleta departed Toronto FC, the MLS club where he spent the longest stint in his career, after the 2021 season, and as a player not yet 30 at the start of the 2022 season, he was an intriguing pickup for the LA Galaxy.

There is the personal connection, of course, with Zavaleta Greg Vanney’s nephew. Vanney has worked with Zavaleta in the Real Salt Lake academy, and then at TFC from 2015-20. Zavaleta has always been a rotational center back, aside from 2017, when he helped anchor arguably the best team in MLS history, but a veteran CB who can give you some starts and be at the ready when needed? Pretty much every team needs that.

But playing time was pretty sparse in the end for the El Salvador international. Vanney mentioned an undisclosed issue at one point in the year, but he wasn’t a fixture on the injury report. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t injured, just that the Galaxy didn’t list him. But aside from some run in April, May and then in July, it was pretty quiet for Zavaleta.

Here are Zavaleta’s competitive stats with the Galaxy in 2022:

Eriq Zavaleta LA Galaxy 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 4 3 206 0 0 1 0 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 2 2 180 0 0 1 0 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 6 5 386 0 0 2 0 1 0

The minutes were pretty limited, and injuries may have played their part, but I do think it’s safe to say Zavaleta didn’t do enough to push past Sega Coulibaly, Derrick Williams or eventually, Martin Caceres in the Galaxy defender depth chart.

Will Zavaleta be back in 2023? He was signed to a one-year deal, and I think it’s possible he could re-up — central defense is not an area that most coaches just want to roll with a few guys, and he’s just turned 30 this summer. But he falls in a spot that I think is kind of win-lose — he’s a veteran, his salary is low, which is big upside for any team, but he’s also not really a regular starter and at this point in his career, very clearly seems to be a depth option at best. Would it be better to turn to youth and give them the minutes, or is it truly important enough to have an old hand available? Given the Galaxy have some youngsters coming through the pipeline, it may not be a terrible idea to turn to youth, especially with Vanney — a former defender — leading the way.

Having said that, I think Zavaleta can find a contract for 2023 one way or another. Maybe he’ll run it back with the Galaxy, or maybe his stint here will last one season, we’ll see.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.