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Galaxy faces some major renovations

October 29, 2008|GRAHAME L. JONES | ON SOCCER

Sifting through the rubble of the Galaxy's 2008 season, Coach Bruce Arena is unlikely to find much that can be salvaged.

In fact, if David Beckham is taken at his word, he is the only player certain of returning in 2009. Many of the other 30 names on the roster could be scratched out before then.

Some players will be retained. Some will be exposed to the Nov. 26 expansion draft to stock the Seattle Sounders. Some will be traded. Some will retire. Some will remain on loan to lower-division teams. Some will simply be cut loose.

But who and why and when?

Arena was hired in August to answer precisely these questions. As coach and general manager, he will have final say, but for the moment he is simply staring at the wreckage of an 8-13-9 season.

Even the change of coaches, from Ruud Gullit to Arena, did not stop the rot. The Galaxy went 2-5-3 under Arena, so he is well aware of the team's many shortcomings.

"It's certainly a team that needs to be reconstructed," Arena said. "We have an odd balance on our team on the field. We have an odd balance age-wise. And we certainly have some issues that need to be resolved with the salary cap."

You think?

Beckham makes $6.5 million a year and still has three years left on his contract. At the other end of the spectrum are eight players, including three who started games, making $12,900 a year.

To Arena's credit, the fact that Beckham earns in a day what 11 other roster players each earn in a year has not exempted the English midfielder from criticism.

"I think it's like the entire Galaxy team, it could be better," Arena said when asked what he thought of Beckham's performance in 2008.

The Galaxy has failed to make the playoffs for three consecutive seasons and is a cumulative 28-42-22 in those three years despite -- or perhaps because of -- having four coaches and a constant stream of players coming and going.

Arena said the fault lies squarely at the feet of the coaches and players. He exempted team owner AEG from any blame, even though the heavy hand of AEG's Tim Leiweke hovered over many of the Galaxy's ruinous moves of the last few seasons.

"Where we've screwed up is in management and the front office, in getting the team better, and the players," Arena said. "That's my job and the players' job. That's why I'm here. It hasn't been good enough. We're not getting it done on the field."

The lack of continuity and the lack of stability have been painfully obvious at the Galaxy, and another off-season of change lies ahead, including the possibility that Landon Donovan, the team's top goal scorer in each of the last four seasons, will be leaving.

Donovan (20 goals and nine assists in 25 games this season) is looking for a move to Europe. He said the players are as much at fault as anyone for the debacles.

"I think we can all look in the mirror and be critical," Donovan said. "We haven't done a good enough job of holding people accountable. It's one thing for coaches to do it, [but] we need to do it."

Defender Greg Vanney, who announced his retirement Sunday, said the Galaxy in years past was a far more cohesive unit, with veteran players accepting their roles and the atmosphere in the locker room being far more upbeat.

Donovan agreed, and said he sees the same thing at other successful MLS teams.

"I saw that with San Jose. I see that with Houston now. You can tell when we play Columbus, there's just an attitude, and it's in everything they do. They're competitive and they do it to win," Donovan said.

"For too long now, we haven't had that. We need more guys who are like that."

The Galaxy's off-season shopping list is extensive, but at the top of it are a goalkeeper, a central defender, a defensive midfielder and, if Donovan leaves, a playmaker and a reliable goal scorer. In other words, almost half a starting lineup.

"It can't be a clean slate, it's not possible in this league," Arena said.

"There need to be changes. Are there going to be 11 new starters next year? No, of course not. But there are going to be changes and we have to actively pursue players."

All of which brings it back to Beckham, who, while trying to finalize an off-season loan to AC Milan, admitted that his own performance in 2008 (five goals and 10 assists in 25 games) was not up to snuff in the second half of the season.

"It's been on and off," he said. "I've had good games, I've had bad games. We've scored a lot of goals. We've conceded a lot of goals. I think it's been OK in spells. Maybe in other games it's not been."

With two years of failure already in the books, Beckham, 34 in May, has three years left to script a better ending to his career.

"I've not enjoyed not having success with the Galaxy," he said. "We have to put that right."

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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