What Will Define LA's 2014 Season?

The Galaxy's new signings faced with the harrowing responsibility of turning around a failed 2013
by Roy Rosell   |   Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Galaxy of Angels – column on Los Angeles Galaxy (LA Galaxy) & the LA soccer scene.

The cries for a 3-peat, an experienced roster and the fact that most of the team remained intact from their MLS Cup roster just months before all pointed to a potentially great season for LA.

But one thing Galaxy fans can all agree on is that 2013 was a total failure. A poor record salvaged by a weak performing Western Conference, an unimpressive playoff run and all around inconsistency pretty much sums up the season for an LA team that may have gotten a bit too cocky.

Analysts, critics and fans alike all had a feeling that big changes were in the horizon. Lo and behold, in the past few months the Galaxy has dispatched 10 players (some of which came with an uproar from fans) and acquired a whole new set of potential stars to lead the team to a third MLS Cup in 5 years. 

These players are:

MID: Baggio Husidic (free transfer), Stefan Ishizaki (free transfer)

FWD: Samuel (loan from Fluminense), Rob Friend (free transfer), Bradford Jamieson (Homegrown), Raul Mendiola (Homegrown)

Of the player acquisitions mentioned above, Samuel and Ishizaki are both expected to have prominent roles in the starting lineup for the Galaxy this season, while Husidic and Friend were brought in to be impact inclusions off the bench.

But will these players meet the fan's expectations, or will they be total duds? Given a lack of high profile signings and an aging core, Ishizaki and Samuel's ability to become game changers  could very well decide the Galaxy's fate for 2014. After all, Samuel, Friend, and Ishizaki have no experience in MLS. For a league that has proven time and time again to have had a steep learning curve, this could end up biting LA in the behind.

Of the 3 attackers, Samuel is the wild card. At 23 years old, he’s featured 63 times, scoring 13 goals for Fluminense, one of Brazil’s most storied clubs. Though the stats may not be all that impressive, starting for Fluminense for the past couple years is a tremendous achievement and speaks volumes of his skill and potential impact for the Galaxy.

But for a fan, stats don’t always tell the story. What can this player can provide in terms of entertainment and effectiveness? So, I decided it was necessary to scour my list of soccer crazed friends for a Fluminense supporter to get a bit of insider information. Fortunately, I came across one die hard fan that provided me with a brief, yet very telling rundown on Samuel:

“He’s huge, he’s pretty fast, and he’s strong,” the fan said. “When he feels like it, he scores. But he could be clumsy, lazy, immature, and you might find him standing around when he shouldn’t. You’ll enjoy him. Sometimes.”

After confirming that we were talking about Samuel and not Jozy Altidore, I was left with a sense of intrigue. The fact is that, as much as MLS fans hate to admit it, going from the Brasileiro to MLS is a drop in quality. Because he has all the physical attributes that are required of an attacker in the MLS, if he can maintain the strength, speed and goal scoring he displayed at Fluminense and the Galaxy figure out how to keep his attitude and work ethic in check, LA could have a tremendous attacking threat at their disposal.

Ishizaki is another big question mark. He came highly touted from the Allsvenskan, many fans even refer to him as the Swedish Beckham. But will he be the expert winger that the Galaxy so desperately need?

If preseason is any indication, the answer to that question is, simply put, no. A combination of sub par performances that told us less about what he has to offer and more about how long he will take to adjust has put a damper on my exceedingly high expectations placed on the Swedish Beckham. But a quick YouTube search for Ishizaki highlights brings back the glimmer of hope that Ishizaki could be a game changer.

As has become apparent, recent executive changes within the Galaxy has had an effect on the types of acquisitions being made. Whereas the team has made its claim to fame by attracting high profile signings, that torch has now been passed to Toronto as LA has elected to remain relatively under the radar with their signings this offseason. The hope is Samuel will turn out to be the next Freddy Montero, Friend the next Wondolowski, and Ishizaki the budget Beckham.

The question of whether or not these hopes will come to fruition will begin to be answered on Saturday as LA takes on the team responsible for their embarrassing elimination from the 2013 playoffs.

NEXT UP: March 8 – Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. 10:30 p.m. EST, MLS Live.

Roy ROSELL

Nationality:
USA
College:
Cal Poly Pomona
Club Domestic:
LA Galaxy
Club Foreign:
Arsenal
Absolute fanatic, especially passionate about MLS and it's growth. LA Galaxy columnist with no filter and a knack for the controversial. Travelled the world watching soccer matches, but there's no place like home.
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