While the starting group of Mark Delgado, Rayan Raveloson and a rotating third player (among the likes of Victor Vazquez, Efrain Alvarez and Sacha Kljestan) started the season well, injuries battered the depth at the position and over time, it was clear that Raveloson, who had been a scoring dynamo when he first arrived in LA, had lost all that in 2022 because he was playing as more of a No. 6 than a No. 8 (or even 2nd forward). As has been a trend with the Galaxy, he seemed like a player slightly miscast this season, and Greg Vanney publicly expressed an interest in getting the Malagasy international back to his best role once again.
Vanney said LA was looking to add one, perhaps two midfielders as the transfer window got underway, and the club found the first addition in defensive midfielder Gaston Brugman, a Uruguayan who played previously in the top flight and second division in Italy, and in the Segunda in Spain.
Brugman joined on July 6, and has made three appearances in league play so far. His debut was promising, with a Galaxy win at home over Atlanta United, but the team has lost the last two league games and Brugman looks like he’s coming to grips with the pace of MLS. That’s not unusual, but time will tell if he can settle as a defensive mid and help Delgado be more of a link-up player, a role he thrives in.
The concern for Raveloson’s role in the lineup, meanwhile, became moot last week, as he was quickly sold on to French club Auxerre, newly promoted to Ligue 1. Truthfully, as the team began to struggle in a real way through the summer months, Raveloson had started playing better and better of late and by the time he left his exit seemed like quite a blow. In the long run, his skillset may not have quite fit in the Galaxy mix perfectly, and the move may have been for the best even if he had come on and was really in good form. At the same time, he may have gotten some wind of a move back to France and started playing more freely, who knows. But the truth was Raveloson had been an automatic start for the Galaxy this season, and so taking away a player who seemed pretty effective was quite a risk.
But that was balanced by the final swoop in the window for LA, in signing FC Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig at the end of the window. The 22-year-old is a product of the famed La Masia academy system and Barcelona midfielders are regarded worldwide. Plus, with Barcelona desperate to balance their books and squad as they appear to be functionally insolvent, Puig was picked up on a free transfer, with a favorable buy-back clause and sell-on fee for Barça. In other words, the terms of the deal are out of the ordinary for both clubs given the player profile but it’s a win-win on both sides in the immediate term.
Now, will Puig transform the Galaxy midfield? Hopefully! A young player who could have a high ceiling, there’s plenty of promise here, and he could turn out to be a real coup if he plays up to his potential in MLS. Plus, the “square peg” dilemma may be solved now, if Brugman settles as a defensive mid, Delgado the link man in a two-way role, and Puig pushing forward in attack. It means the Galaxy’s set-up is going to look different in the middle of the park, but instead of the en vogue trend of having three guys in the middle doing a bit of everything, Vanney seems likely to opt for more of regimented roles for the midfielders, and that may be more effective. We’ll see.
What’s also a question mark is how high Puig’s ceiling will actually be. In contrast to the 29-year-old Brugman, who has plenty of games on his legs and game tape over the years, Puig remains a mystery considering his tender age. Could he be an MLS Best XI-caliber player who commands a return to Europe in a few years? Sure. Will he? That’s unclear. We’ve seen lots of hyped Barcelona and Real Madrid academy products scatter to the winds and never come close to world-class quality. So a guarantee that Puig will come good is not present here, but obviously there is a risk with literally every signing. Time will tell.
With the Galaxy focused on remaking their midfield this summer, that means there was no other action on the roster. The attackers are essentially maxed out already, with three Designated Players in that group and the club unlikely to move any of them on at present. The defense started the season in fantastic form and have slowly regressed to at best inconsistent. Jonathan Bond has had some ups and downs in goal but making a midseason swoop at that position never looked likely.
So this is the group, barring a late free agent signing before the MLS roster freeze, that the Galaxy will roll with for the rest of 2022. Will the two players in elevate the midfield, even with an effective player needing to leave in the process? The summer window was a targeted project, and we’ll see if it was enough to push the Galaxy into the playoffs and perhaps beyond.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.