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COMMENTARY

How to clean up the mess

Galaxy requires more than a tuneup; it needs an overhaul of its roster

October 27, 2007|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

For the second season in a row, the Galaxy failed to make the Major League Soccer playoffs.

Obviously, changes need to be made. David Beckham says they do not have to be extensive. David Beckham is wrong.

If the two-time champion Galaxy once again is going to be competitive in MLS, rather than being merely a gaudy and high-priced distraction, an entire rethinking is called for.

Looking at the way the Galaxy's 2007 season came unraveled and looking ahead to what is needed to set matters straight in 2008, the team, which finished 9-14-7, would appear to need a minimum of six new players, every one of them capable of starting.

As for the front office, 18 months ago Galaxy owner AEG recruited Alexi Lalas as the team's president and general manager and it's likely he will continue in those jobs. It's also likely that Frank Yallop will remain as the Galaxy's coach, unless his former club, the San Jose Earthquakes, makes him an offer too good to turn down.

Given that, then it is among the players that the upheaval should occur.

Defender Chris Albright's $142,500 contract expires this year, and the Galaxy has to do whatever it takes to keep the best right back in MLS in the fold.

The league will hold its expansion draft in the week after the MLS Cup final on Nov. 18 and, if the rules remain the same, the Galaxy will be allowed to protect only 11 of its 26 players. It can, however, lose only one.

In order to keep David Beckham and Landon Donovan on its roster, the Galaxy has to come up with another designated player spot. (Unless, of course, MLS changes its rules and allows Donovan to continue being grandfathered in as he was this season.)

The Galaxy will need to give up quite a bit in a trade to get that extra DP slot, which allows teams to sign players outside the salary cap.

But there are options. Toronto FC, which finished with a league-worst 6-17-7 record in its inaugural season, obviously needs help, so the Galaxy might be well positioned to trade for Toronto's DP spot by offering the Galaxy's Canadian internationals Kevin Harmse and Ante Jazic, both of whom might prefer to be closer to home in a World Cup qualifying year.

Similarly, San Jose has a DP spot and probably would be interested in reacquiring the Galaxy's goalkeeper, Joe Cannon, whose four seasons and more than 100 games for the Earthquakes included winning an MLS title in 2001. Cannon also once played alongside defender John Doyle, now the Earthquakes' president and general manager. They aren't strangers and Doyle has twice been spotted at the Home Depot Center in recent weeks.

Another option might be to unload Cannon and his $192,000-a-year guaranteed salary to floundering Real Salt Lake in exchange for that team's goalkeeper, Chris Seitz, and his more acceptable $90,500 salary. That would give the Galaxy enough salary cap room to keep Albright and also land the 20-year-old Seitz, currently fifth in the U.S. national team's goalkeeper pecking order, who has similar potential to Chivas USA's Brad Guzan and who would push current backup Steve Cronin for the starting job.

If all or some of the above trades occur, the Galaxy would need a goalkeeper, a central defender, a left back, a defensive midfielder and two proven forwards.

The middle of the defense needs shoring up, and there must be enough capable but inexpensive journeymen in Europe who would jump at the chance to play alongside Abel Xavier and behind David Beckham. Beckham probably even knows a few.

If Jazic is traded away, Mike Randolph, 21, the one true revelation of the Galaxy's 2007 season, has played well at left back, but his versatility also makes him useful in left midfield, so another left back has to be found, either to start or for depth.

Similarly, if Harmse and veteran Peter Vagenas are traded, the team needs another defensive midfielder to complement Kelly Gray.

Then there is the front line, which failed almost completely in 2007, injuries, scheduling woes and poor service from midfield notwithstanding.

Honduran Carlos Pavon was a flop. His three goals and no assists in 18 games for the Galaxy say so. Alan Gordon has never been the right fit: seven goals in 43 games over four seasons say so. Edson Buddle was a curious signing to begin with, and his five goals in 16 games did nothing to enhance his reputation.

So get rid of all three.

Forward Gavin Glinton made a name for himself as a super sub, entering games late and adding a spark of life that all too often was absent. He stays. So does 17-year-old Israel Sesay, but as a project for the future.

In the meantime, the Galaxy needs an offense, something that Donovan and Beckham can feed from the midfield. Donovan's eight goals and 13 assists in 2007 bring his three-season Galaxy totals to 40 goals and 33 assists in 79 games, more than respectable. But Donovan has been carrying far too much of the burden and, for him, the next three years are going to be filled with World Cup call-ups and that is where his priorities will lie.

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