So, your MLS team missed the playoffs? Time to make this player its centerpiece
LA Galaxy: Giovani dos Santos
The LA Galaxy understood that it might endure some tough times after a youthful rebuild accompanied Bruce Arena's departure for the U.S. men’s national team, but things went awry early and, a short road stretch in spring aside, went from from bad to worse. Injuries were catastrophic and an absence of requisite depth condemned LA to the bottom of the MLS standings.
Sigi Schmid's return as head coach in July and the postseason announcement that he'd take charge of player decisions, with Peter Vagenas dropping “general manager” from his title, signaled that the Galaxy would try this rebuild thing again this offseason. Here’s why he should build around dos Santos:
Romain Alessandrini was the engine in 2017, leading LA with 13 goals and 12 assists and playing a direct role in 31 of the 40 goals the Galaxy netted while he was on the field, and that's problematic. This is, or should be, Giovani dos Santos' team, but the Mexican star has been woefully inconsistent since arriving in summer 2015. When he's on, he's a world-beater, capable of summoning magic from nothing; when he's not, and that's more often than he is, he makes nothing of the impact $5.5 million in annual compensation should be making.
Dos Santos, at his core, is a complementary player, not the star. He's been at his best in MLS when playing deputy to Robbie Keane or when in concert with Alessandrini, and LA needs to find further talent that can draw out the best of his game. Find the right pieces, especially at forward, and the Galaxy could be contending again in 2017.
-- Scott French
D.C. United: Paul Arriola
In the midst of D.C.’s tied-for-league-worst campaign, a ray of hope suddenly lit up RFK Stadium in the final days of the summer transfer window, as United’s heretofore budget-conscious ownership group splashed out several million dollars on four new signings from abroad, headlined by Arriola.
It was a statement of intent not only for the club, which aims to catapult itself back into the league elite when its pricey new home, Audi Field, opens in 2018, but for the player as well. After fighting tooth and nail for every minute of playing time over his four-year stint at Club Tijuana, Arriola is now ready to be “the guy,” an ascendant U.S. men’s national team star and the centerpiece of his new MLS club’s plans both on the field and off.
Rangy, energetic, aggressive, the winger resembles a reasonable facsimile of D.C. coach Ben Olsen at the dawn of his own playing career, and will be relied upon correspondingly in 2018 and beyond.
- Charles Boehm