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. Where in the world is Angel Di Maria? Man United boss Louis van Gaal has no idea

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:27 PM EDT

    Louis van Gaal & Angel Di Maria, Manchester United FC Louis van Gaal & Angel Di Maria, Manchester United FC

    Louis van Gaal seems to have misplaced his club’s $90 million investment, purchased just 12 months ago.

  2. Anfield exit looming? Balotelli, Borini left out of squad for Liverpool’s final preseason games

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:10 PM EDT

    Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC Mario Balotelli, Liverpool FC

    With three attacking signings already made this summer, Balotelli and Borini look destined to leave Liverpool before the transfer deadline.

  3. Report: Julian Green will start season with Bayern Munich reserves, not on loan

    Jul 30, 2015, 6:24 PM EDT

    Julian Green, FC Bayern Munich Getty Images

    Julian Green will be playing in the fourth division of German football to begin the 2015-16 season.

  4. David Beckham’s Miami MLS team is getting a really, really bad stadium deal

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT

    Marlins Park — Miami Marlins Marlins Park — Miami Marlins

    The terms and conditions of building a stadium next to Marlins Park couldn’t be any less favorable to the prospective MLS franchise.

  5. CONCACAF president to review refereeing department after Gold Cup fiasco

    Jul 30, 2015, 4:02 PM EDT

    Mark Geiger — Panama vs. Mexico — 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup Mark Geiger — Panama vs. Mexico — 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup

    CONCACAF’s refereeing department could be in line for something of an overhaul in the coming months and years.

  6. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Norwich City

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Norwich City FC Norwich City FC

    Back in the Premier League after a season away, can the Canaries stay up and solidify their place among England’s elite?

  7. Mauricio Pochettino: USMNT’s DeAndre Yedlin could go out on loan

    Jul 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    2015 MLS All-Star Game Getty Images

    Following Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to the MLS All-Stars, Mauricio Pochettino said he is unsure as to where Yedlin will be playing next season.

  8. Zlatan says his next move will be “a very big surprise”

    Jul 30, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic AP

    Zlatan’s contract with Paris Saint-Germain expires next season, but he won’t let anyone know his plans for the future.

  9. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Newcastle United

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:10 PM EDT

    newcastlecrest

    Last season was a complete disaster for Newcastle. Can Steve McClaren turn things around for the Magpies?

  10. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Lambert to West Brom, Balotelli back to Italy

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    Hull City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Liverpool could lose two strikers, while Mario Gomez is on his way to Besiktas.

  11. Chung Mong-joon to run for FIFA presidency, calls out Blatter and Platini

    Jul 30, 2015, 10:06 AM EDT

    Chung Mong-Joon Speaks About Possible FIFA President Candidacy Getty Images

    The South Korean billionaire is looking to become the new president of FIFA, and he had some choice words for his rivals.

  12. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Manchester United

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:10 AM EDT

    manchester.united.crest

    Heading into Louis van Gaal’s second season at Old Trafford, trophies are on the minds of everyone in Manchester.

  13. Report: Sergio Ramos to sign extension with Real Madrid until 2020

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-MALAGA Getty Images

    The defender had been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, but it looks like he’ll be staying at Madrid.

  14. MLS All Stars 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur: Kaka powers MLS to win

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT

    2015 AT&T Major League Soccer All-Star game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 29, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. Getty Images

    Kaka and David Villa scored for the All Stars, which built on last year’s 2-1 win against Bayern Munich.

  15. Manchester United 0-2 PSG: Early goals lead French champs past Red Devils

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:09 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - JULY 29:  Phil Jones and Bastian Schweinsteiger of Manchester United in action with  Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint Germain during the International Champions Cup 2015 match between Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain at Soldier Field on July 29, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Tom Purslow/Man Utd via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Halftime substitutions including Andreas Pereira gave some life to United, but the Red Devils still couldn’t find the back of the net.

  16. WATCH: Carli Lloyd with another screamer, this time in NWSL play

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:01 PM EDT

    LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS -- Episode 236 -- Pictured: Carlie Lloyd of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Champion U.S. Women's National Team, during an interview on July 27, 2015 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) Getty Images

    The 86th minute tally came moments after FCKC had drawn level at 2-2.

  17. Jaime Penedo and L.A. Galaxy surprisingly decide to call it quits

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:39 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo #18 of the Los Angeles Galaxy makes a save in the second half of regulation time during 2014 MLS Cup at StubHub Center on December 7, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Galaxy defeated the Revolution 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Could this be on account of overseas interest, or is he just ready to go closer to home?

  18. UEFA Champions League wrap: Celtic escapes through Boyata; Ajax draws

    Jul 29, 2015, 7:14 PM EDT

    GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 29:  Dedryck  Boyata of Celtic scores against FK Qarabag during the UEFA Champions League Third Qualifying Round 1st Leg match between Celtic and FK Qarabag at Celtic Park on July 29, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Azerbaijani champions nearly walked out of Celtic Park with a deadlock, but Boyata’s second goal in as many games did the trick.

  19. Men in Blazers podcast: Chelsea’s John Terry joins Rog and Davo

    Jul 29, 2015, 6:18 PM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo pod from Chelsea vs. Barcelona at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. Chelsea captain John Terry guests.

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window