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LA Galaxy 2022 Player Postmortem: Julian Araujo

After a slow start, a strong finish for young defender.

Nashville FC v Los Angeles Galaxy Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Julian Araujo returned for his fourth season with the LA Galaxy in 2022, and after some early wobbles, the right back demonstrated again why he’s one of the highest-regarded prospects in MLS.

After being a part-time starter as a teenager his first two years with the Galaxy first team, Araujo returned for his second as a full-time starter in 2022. Ultimately he played in all but one competitive game, and I think Greg Vanney’s choice to help him play through some early season malaise was the right choice for the youngster.

Some of the issues may stem in part from the hype surrounding Araujo. He’s clearly starter quality in MLS at this point, and at his tender age, plus his decision to declare for Mexico’s National Team, there were some pretty big rumors circulating about the likes of FC Barcelona and Juventus sniffing around him. While I think it’s certainly plausible he could be in the orbit of those clubs, I don’t think he’s quite ready for that level of primetime, and fans of the biggest clubs in the world can be unbelievably harsh when young players aren’t perfect right out of the gate — just ask Riqui Puig, a favorite scapegoat from Barcelona fans until his arrival at the Galaxy.

At any rate, after a 2021 season in which Araujo took a leap forward, he had a run of middling performances out of the gate to start 2022, but he played his way back into form and ended up having another solid season.

Here are Araujo’s competitive stats with LA in 2022:

Julian Araujo 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 33 30 2,742 0 9 14 2 6 0
U.S. Open Cup 4 3 297 0 0 6 1 1 0
Playoffs 2 2 180 1 0 1 1 1 0
Total 39 35 3,219 1 9 21 4 8 0

Araujo was the clear leader on the team in assists, with nine, all in regular season play, and he was in the top 20 in assists in the league for the regular season, second among fullbacks around MLS.

His lone goal was an important one, the winner in the playoffs over Nashville SC, with his teammates giving a good ribbing afterwards for not previously scoring this year.

This goal is really interesting, because he floats way out of position to get in a scoring spot. I think Nashville really didn’t figure he’d come all the way to the back post and wait for a header — there’s no game tape on that from him previously — but the gamble in this instance worked a treat. If it doesn’t work, you can definitely see a scenario where his side of the field is wide open and the other team torches the Galaxy as they execute a counterattack down to the other end. But this sport is full of those moments, and when they needed a goal, Araujo got it.

The advanced stats on the season show it was a good, maybe not great, campaign for the player. His Goals-added mark from ASA was -0.11, so basically a tick below average among all outfield players. And his scouting report graph showed a pretty decent all-around game, particularly good at passing for his position, but only really above average, not elite, in the defensive categories overall.

Araujo is under contract for a few more years with the Galaxy, and we’ve already been through 18 months of speculation he’s about to move. As the summer transfer window closed, there were pockets of Galaxy fandom insisting he was on his way out, this would be his final game, and it wasn’t. It’s unclear if the bids themselves are not materializing, or if they’re lowballing LA. My hunch is the latter — it’s understandable the Galaxy want to get a good transfer fee for Araujo, and European clubs are still trying to save a few bucks when they buy players from MLS. We’ll see who cracks first in that regard. I do think that if Araujo is really going to make the next jump in his game, he probably can’t stay with the Galaxy longer than another year. And while I think he can definitely contribute in Europe right now, I think it would be best for him to go to a mid-tier club with a clear path to playing time. Given his profile and the strengths and weaknesses in his game, I think he needs to find the right fit, but if he does, he can succeed.

There’s also the possibility Araujo gets sold to a Liga MX team. They also love to lowball MLS teams, but Club América bought Brian Rodriguez from LAFC for $6 million this year, so a multimillion dollar bid is possible, but will a Mexican club splurge, say, $10 million for a right back out of MLS? I doubt it. Will a European team go for that? I guess we’ll see.

From a Galaxy perspective, when Araujo is sold that will likely be a huge hole to fill on the field at the right back position. At the same time, they need to transfer one of their young stars abroad at some point if they really want to show proof of concept in terms of producing top young players. The Galaxy have been burned time and again over the years with players from their own academy defecting before turning pro and having strong careers elsewhere, and for all of the talent the Galaxy Academy has, they have done a terrible job bringing players through to the first team. Araujo is the only full-fledged success story to date (and frankly, he isn’t strictly a Galaxy Academy product), but if he is to realize his potential on a personal level, he needs to go to a higher level before long. And the Galaxy, even though they will be losing his stability and consistent play on the field, need to see him off as well, for a decent price, of course. So we’ll see if 2022 was his last full season in LA, or if there’s another campaign ahead in MLS for the promising defender.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.