Aug 7, 2014, 6:50 PM EDT
Catch the right Galaxy game, and the atmosphere at StubHub Center is worthy of one of the league’s most prestigious teams. Amid a captivating dusk of the Southern California summer, one of the league’s more fan-friendly atmospheres highlights a generation growing up with Major League Soccer. Despite its market’s competition, the four-time champions have gained staked out a place in complicated sports market.
But the significance of that place is about to be tested. Even in the absence of David Beckham, the local profile of the Galaxy brand has diminished. Now, with the impending departure of its biggest star, the team will have to embark on a makeover. No matter whom AEG brings in, nobody will replace Landon Donovan.
[ RELATED: Landon Donovan to retired at end of 2014 season. ]
Not that LA doesn’t have other stars. Robbie Keane is one of MLS’s best players, and as the face of a team, there are few U.S. stars that have the potential of Omar Gonzalez. With an open Designated Player spot, Los Angeles has the profile to bring in the game’s bigger stars; potentially more, if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement gives them more ways to stock up. The team that takes the field next spring may turn out to be more talent than the one Donovan leaves this fall.
But is there another player who can make the same connection as Donovan? An American star that allows fans to be conflict-free between their club and national teams? Is there somebody good enough to be an icon but young enough to grow with the next generation of fans? Is there another player with a local connection who, even if he’s played elsewhere in his career, will allow Los Angeles to embrace him as their own?
One look at the national team says no. A deeper look at the next generation sees talented players who lack the overall package. For LA as much as MLS, Donovan was a truly unique star.
As much as losing a great player and leader, that will be the hardest part. Nobody can replace Donovan, the spokesman. Los Angeles is very much a Lakers town, one that’s swinging even farther towards basketball with the Clippers’ growth and UCLA’s historic success. For the older generation, the Dodgers are the area’s iconic team, while both USC and UCLA football have dominant presences in the absence of the NFL (which still sells a lot of Raiders gear in the area). While the NHL’s Kings and, farther south, the Angels and Ducks all have some of the pie, LA’s sports market, as peculiar as it may be, is defined by a few, clear icons.
When LA had David Beckham, it would break into that sphere, with the exploits of a global icon able to wrestle away time on the local news. With only Donovan, the attention has decreased, though his presence has allowed LA to stay on the map. A local media with a short attention span has that focal point to reference whenever soccer becomes important.
[ RELATED: For Donovan the man, it’s time to move on. ]
But what happens come 2015? Keane and Gonzalez aren’t enough. LA can be expected to bring in bigger stars, but it took somebody like David Beckham to make an impact before. Even well into his retirement, few players have a Q Score to match Beckham, who may still be Los Angeles’s most popular soccer player.
The Galaxy could go out, find two more Robbie Keanes, and win a fifth (perhaps sixth) title, but unless one of those stars can replace Donovan’s appeal, they could have trouble making progress in that market. As evidenced by the Kings, whose two Stanley Cups have failed to recapture the local relevant of Wayne Gretzky’s era, star power is important. Only brands like the Lakers and Dodgers can get by on winning alone.
Go to StubHub Center on a weeknight in summer, and you see the line the Galaxy walk. Life in Carson, Calif., is often an anonymous one. Have an 11:30 a.m. kickoff on a Saturday? The crowd will thin out.
The team lives a precarious life on the edge of the SoCal sports scene. Without Donovan, they’ll have to find a new way to keep up.
Apr 20, 2015, 11:27 PM EDT
Mourinho says Chelsea will look to the club’s stacked youth academy for reinforcements, as well as the transfer market.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:44 PM EDT
Liverpool’s captain-in-waiting is reportedly set to sign a new long-term deal at Anfield.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT
PSG and Bayern Munich did themselves no favors in the first leg, but it’s still 90 minutes from over.
Apr 20, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT
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Apr 20, 2015, 5:27 PM EDT
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Apr 20, 2015, 4:53 PM EDT
He’ll be an MLS MVP one day, but for now Fabian Castillo will have to settle for MLS Player of the Week.
Apr 20, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
Week 7 was chock full of goals — some really great ones, in fact — making this week’s Team of the Week tough to pick.
Apr 20, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT
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Apr 20, 2015, 2:57 PM EDT
Listen to the latest MiB pod, right here.
Apr 20, 2015, 2:06 PM EDT
The Blues are inching towards the 2014-15 title but many are unimpressed with their defensive displays. Let’s sit down and think about this.
Apr 20, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT
If the Gunners win the FA Cup next month it could well book Spurs a place in the Europa League. Seriously.
Apr 20, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT
PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes a look back at Week 33 in the PL.
Apr 20, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT
Blatter: “Nothing will get in the way of Russia hosting the best ever World Cup.”
Apr 20, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT
Bayern’s boss positive his side can overturn 3-1 deficit in Tuesday’s second leg.
Apr 20, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT
Earle and Mustoe dissect Chelsea’s defensive display and much more in the latest podcast.
Apr 20, 2015, 8:24 AM EDT
Do United need a new winger? LVG has already made his move for Depay.
Apr 20, 2015, 7:31 AM EDT
Welsh superstar to miss Wednesday’s clash against Atletico Madrid after picking up calf injury.
Apr 19, 2015, 11:10 PM EDT
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo…Eden Hazard?
Apr 19, 2015, 10:09 PM EDT
With clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United reportedly interested in signing the Burnley goalscorer, Ings has said he will only go where he can get consistent playing time.
Apr 19, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT
The Portland Timbers had to grind out a win at Yankee Stadium, just squeaking by a David Villa-less NYCFC.
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