Skip to content

The More They Stay The Same: LA Galaxy, One Year On

Dec 1, 2012, 8:14 AM EDT

2012 MLS Cup - Los Angeles Galaxy Training Session Getty Images

CARSON, Calif. — Houston looks better (much better) than this time last year, when a late Landon Donovan goal broke a deadlock between them and eventual MLS Champions LA Galaxy. But that’s only half the picture. Teams don’t improve in vacuums. They improve relative to their competition.

But while Houston’s story is “The Most Things Change,” for a Galaxy team making it third MLS Cup Final in four seasons, the narrative is “The More They Stay The Same.” Whereas Dominic Kinnear’s team will be better at up to six positions (with the loss of defender Geoff Cameron the only significant departure), Bruce Arena’s team may start 10 of the players who claimed the coach’s third league title.

Here’s how LA’s two teams line up, the 2011 versus 2012 versions:

2011 Pos. 2012
Josh Saunders G Josh Saunders
Sean Franklin RB Sean Franklin
Omar Gonzalez RCB Omar Gonzalez
A.J. DeLaGarza LCB DeLaGarza/Meyer
Todd Dunivant LB Todd Dunivant
Landon Donovan RM Christian Wilhelmsson
Juninho CM Juninho
David Beckham CM David Beckham
Mike Magee LM Mike Magee
Adam Cristman SS/ST Landon Donovan
Robbie Keane ST Robbie Keane

The big question for LA team is whether A.J. DeLaGarza, the starter along side Omar Gonzalez through the Galaxy’s best part of the season (August and September), plays. Out with a knee injury for the playoffs, DeLaGarza could return to action on Saturday, though that would entail demoting Tommy Meyer, who has yet to crack against the likes of San Jose and Seattle.

Bring DeLaGarza, out of action for nearly two months, back for the final? Or stay with the kid from Indiana? Unless Bruce Arena’s told us (and big shock, he hasn’t), it would be senseless to speculate. Any insight we could offer would be mitigated by the fact we haven’t see how DeLaGarza and Meyer have trained. While it’s easy to say keep Meyer in, don’t risk a rust factor with DeLaGarza, but A.J. may be out-performing Tommy in practice.

source: Getty Images

Just short of a wink from the Galaxy captain.

Elsewhere in the team, swapping Christian Wilhelmsson in for Adam Cristman is an upgrade, especially given the relationship that’s developed between Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. Donovan is always a weapon, but moved closer to Keane from the get-go, the two MLS Best XI selections form the league’s most dangerous forward tandem.

One place where Los Angeles is almost certainly better than last year: The bench, not listed above. In 2011, Arena only used one substitute, bringing on Chris Birchall for Cristman in the 57th minute. On Saturday, we’re almost guaranteed to see Marcelo Sarvas for Beckham late (if Sarvas doesn’t get the call over Juninho at the onset). Edson Buddle, Michael Stephens, or Jose Villarreal could also see action.

The names in the table, however — the people most likely to actually play — don’t tell the whole story. When you see Franklin and Franklin across a line, Gonzalez and Gonzalez, Dunivant and Dunivant, you just assume those positions are a wash, but they’re not. Dunivant and Gonzalez had huge 2011s. On Saturday, are they likely to play to that standard? It’s possible, but based on what we’ve seen from them, Franklin, Saunders, and David Beckham in the middle, there are multiple places within this Galaxy team where a sheepish fan can ask whether this vintage is really as good as 2011’s. It’s a difficult case to make, particularly with Beckham.

The juxtaposition between that regression and Houston’s near-across the board improvement is what makes this year’s matchup so compelling. We’ve heard some misgivings about this year’s final being a repeat of last year’s, but it’s not. Sure, you can say that about any rematch — something almost always changes — there are huge improvements for Houston. And for an LA team which may have hit a crest last year, Saturday’s final sets up to be much more difficult than the one they nearly won a year ago.

If LA’s to repeat as MLS champions, they likely have to play better than they did a year ago.

MORE: How the 2011 Dynamo compare to this year’s model


Final note: Here is the side-by-side of LA’s 2009 finalists (who lost in the seventh round of penalty kicks to Real Salt Lake in Seattle) and this year’s likely XI:

2009 Pos. 2012
Donovan Ricketts G Josh Saunders
Sean Franklin RB Sean Franklin
Omar Gonzalez RCB Omar Gonzalez
Gregg Berhalter LCB DeLaGarza/Meyer
Todd Dunivant LB Todd Dunivant
Landon Donovan RM Christian Wilhelmsson
Chris Birchall CM Juninho
David Beckham CM David Beckham
Mike Magee LM Mike Magee
Jovan Kirovski SS/ST Landon Donovan
Edson Buddle ST Robbie Keane
Latest Posts
  1. MUST SEE: Wesley Sneijder scores two wonder goals

    Oct 19, 2014, 11:38 PM EDT

    Galatasaray AS v RSC Anderlecht - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    The Dutch midfielder scored off two ridiculous strikes to lead Galatasary over rivals Fenerbahce.

  2. MLS Sunday roundup: Seattle spoils Donovan’s last home game

    Oct 19, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT

    San Jose Earthquakes v Los Angeles Galaxy Getty Images

    The Sounders came from 2-0 down to steal a draw in Los Angeles at Landon Donovan’s final regular season home game.

  3. Bayern Munich bag six without allowing a single shot

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT

    FC Bayern Muenchen v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Werder Bremen became the first team without a shot in a Bundesliga game as Bayern continues to cruise.

  4. Where does Sergio Aguero rank with the world’s best?

    Oct 19, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT

    Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Getty Images

    The Argentinian forward is scoring goals at a blistering pace for Manchester City. Could he be the most lethal striker in Europe?

  5. La Liga and Serie A roundup: Ronaldo, Messi continue to dominate

    Oct 19, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT

    Levante UD v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Catch up on all of this weekend’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.

  6. Sunderland goalkeeper wants to reimburse fans

    Oct 19, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT

    Southampton v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    After an ugly 8-0 thrashing at Southampton, Vito Mannone said he will try to pay back fans who travelled to the game.

  7. Michael Bradley to Jurgen Klinsmann: ‘I have thick skin’

    Oct 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Getty Images

    The American international responded to Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent criticism of his return to the MLS.

  8. Malky Mackay likely to go unpunished over texting scandal

    Oct 19, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Cardiff City - Premier League Getty Images

    The private nature of Mackay’s texts may help him steer clear of FA charges.

  9. Gareth Bale could miss Champions League clash vs. Liverpool

    Oct 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Wales v Cyprus - EURO 2016 Qualifier Getty Images

    Bale did not play in Real Madrid’s match against Levante while nursing a muscle injury.

  10. WATCH: Argentinian 3rd division game abandoned after brawl, 12 red cards

    Oct 19, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 2.50.49 PM

    12 players sent off, an ambulance called, and riot police on the field. That was the carnage from an ugly brawl in Argentinian soccer.

  11. WATCH: Garry Monk claims Stoke penalty was “absolutely disgusting”

    Oct 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    Monk Getty Images

    The Swansea manager was furious following a soft penalty given for a foul on Victor Moses, suggesting his club has been hard done by referees plenty this season.

  12. Carlo Ancelotti delcares Raheem Sterling is “not in” Real Madrid’s plans

    Oct 19, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT

    Ancelotti Getty Images

    Raheem Sterling faced criticism from the British media for his fitness, but he was also rumored to be wanted by Real Madrid. Ancelotti says don’t believe the rumors.

  13. Redknapp condemns “overweight” Adel Taarabt in presser rant

    Oct 19, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Redknapp Getty Images

    The QPR manager loved what he saw on the field at Loftus Road despite the loss. Off the field is a different story.

  14. Stoke 2-1 Swansea: Substitutes pick up three points for the Potters

    Oct 19, 2014, 12:53 PM EDT

    StokeCity Getty Images

    Jonathan Walters scored the winner off the bench as Stoke City grabbed a much-needed three points.

  15. VIDEO: Redknapp says QPR performance in 3-2 loss best he’s ever seen

    Oct 19, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT

    Redknapp AP

    Harry Redknapp was left flabbergasted after his side performed well but fell 3-2 after a bonkers last five minutes at Loftus Road.

  16. Liverpool must improve, and they know it, despite late win at QPR

    Oct 19, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Rodgers, Gerrard know the Reds were fortunate to leave West London with all three points. But they’ll take it.

  17. Watch Live: Stoke City vs. Swansea City (Lineups)

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:58 AM EDT

    Britannia Getty Images

    Two teams who have dipped in form look to get back on track at the Britannia.

  18. VIDEO: QPR 2-3 Liverpool: Pair of own goals dooms QPR after insane final six minutes

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:32 AM EDT

    Richard Dunne's own goal early in the second half was a harbinger of what would come. Getty Images

    Liverpool struggled through the first hour, but somehow earned the win in an absolutely wild finish.

  19. Three things we learned from Liverpool’s pulsating win over QPR

    Oct 19, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-QPR-LIVERPOOL FBL-ENG-PR-QPR-LIVERPOOL

    QPR’s wasteful finishing, Balotelli’s struggles and much more from a superb encounter at Loftus Road.

  20. Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga woes have Klopp, Zorc seething

    Oct 19, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT

    Klopp Getty Images

    Borussia Dortmund have lost five of their opening eight matches, putting them in 14th.

Featured video

Week 8: Saturday PL recap