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. This week’s MLS5: Our early look at the Most Valuable Player award

    Apr 25, 2014, 2:36 AM EDT

    MLS logo

    Our new, weekly look at one of MLS’s awards. It’s too early to vote, but it’s never to early to take note.

  2. Does Brazil lack a “big star”? Pelé doesn’t see Neymar at that level

    Apr 25, 2014, 1:06 AM EDT

    Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele AP

    Neymar isn’t among the world’s elites. Not that it will matter come June.

  3. Week 8 Preview: Playoff rematches in Seattle, New England; new tests for D.C., New York

    Apr 25, 2014, 12:08 AM EDT

    clint_dempsey Getty Images

    The league’s two deepest attacks meet in Salt Lake, while Kinnear, Porter try to end slumps in Houston.

  4. Schmid takes needed kick at Open Cup-Champions League hornet’s nest

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:58 PM EDT

    D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario and Will Chang General Partner of D.C. United, along with fans celebrate their 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake. Getty Images

    Seattle boss lets it slip that the CONCACAF Champions League reward could go away. Good.

  5. Cahill, Davis, Gonçalves among big fitness questions going into MLS weekend

    Apr 24, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

    Brad Davis 3

    Hernan Bernardello and Kelyn Rowe also among the big potential absences from this weekend’s action.

  6. Weekend off gives Toronto a chance to get Michael Bradley right

    Apr 24, 2014, 7:34 PM EDT

    DefoeBradley AP

    Michael Bradley’s sidelined for a week with a “nerve issue” in his foot. He and Jermain Defoe are expected to be ready for TFC’s next game on May 3.

  7. European power, U.S. enclave Tyresö FF continues playing out its sad soccer parable

    Apr 24, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    tyreso_ff

    Tyreso is Leeds. It’s Anzhi, it’s Málaga. And it has a chance to win a European title before potentially closing its doors.

  8. Scolari reveals eight players on Brazil’s World Cup roster, praises Neymar

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT

    FBL-WC2014-FRIENDLY-BRA-RUS

    After praising Neymar, Scolari inadvertently lets some of the names on his final roster slip:

  9. VIDEO: PST Extra – What next for Manchester United?

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT

    Manchester United Training Session and Press Conference Getty Images

    The PST Extra lads break down United’s options, as the Red Devils prepare for life after Moyes:

  10. Home teams take leads in first legs of Europa League semifinals

    Apr 24, 2014, 5:12 PM EDT

    benfica_juventus AP

    A late goal from Benfica gave the Portuguese champions a win over Juventus, while Sevilla impressed at home against Valencia.

  11. Barcelona’s Victor Valdes admits hatred at being a ‘keeper in new book

    Apr 24, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

    Victor Valdes

    Valdes on his hatred of being a ‘keeper plus top tips to succeed:

  12. Cristiano Ronaldo makes TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people list

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:58 PM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    Real Madrid star takes what’s become an obligatory spot for soccer on the list.

  13. Premier League Power Rankings: Two way tussle for top spot – Week 35

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    Liverpool launched themselves ahead, as their midfielders flew out of the traps. AP

    With the final few weeks of the season upon us, nothing is settled at the top or the bottom:

  14. Premier League Scenarios: Title Chase, Race for Europe and Relegation

    Apr 24, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT

    Norwich City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    This is your Matchweek 35 primer to all the scenarios in the title chase, European qualification and relegation.

  15. Report: Mix Diskerud targeted by New York City FC

    Apr 24, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    South Korea v United States Getty Images

    Assuming a deal could be worked out, Diskerud’s fluid style of play would fit nicely within the attacking philosophy of Jason Kreis.

  16. ‘The Chosen One’ banner of David Moyes taken down by Manchester United

    Apr 24, 2014, 12:40 PM EDT

    The Chosen One Getty Images

    Now with Moyes out and Ryan Giggs in as interim manager, the banner has been removed from Old Trafford.

  17. Manchester United have two transfer deals provisionally in place – Cavani, Shaw, Fabregas all on radar

    Apr 24, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

    Southampton v Newcastle United - Premier League Getty Images

    This is all the calm before the storm that will be Manchester United’s summer of 2014.

  18. #tbt: Louis van Gaal explodes on live television in 2009

    Apr 24, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT

    France v Netherlands - International Friendly Getty Images

    If van Gaal is appointed United boss, Jose Mourinho will have some competition for best post-match sound in the 2014/15 Premier League.

  19. Chelsea approves Jose Mourinho’s desire to play ‘B Squad’ against Liverpool

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Spain Soccer Champions League AP

    For Chelsea, the Liverpool match represents, well, a headache, apparently.

  20. WATCH: Spain’s official World Cup anthem may be the worst music video you’ve ever seen

    Apr 24, 2014, 9:17 AM EDT

    Credit: Daniel Ernst Credit: Daniel Ernst

    So bad you have to see it. That’s the only was to describe Spain’s official World Cup anthem.

Featured video

PST Extra: What next for Man United?