After a winter overhaul, the LA Galaxy head into 2022 looking to return to former glories.
The most successful team in MLS history have only made the Playoffs once in the last five seasons but expectations from the supporters haven't dropped one bit during that time. And so they shouldn't, given the caliber of player the Galaxy so often acquire.
2021 was a year of transition under new head coach Greg Vanney, but another failure to make the post-season or make a deep run toward MLS Cup will not be tolerated.
How did LA Galaxy perform in 2021?
It literally went down to the final minutes of the season, but ultimately, the LA Galaxy failed to make the Playoffs, finishing eighth in the Western Conference.
Despite a stellar season in front of goal from Chicharito, Vanney was simply unable to inspire any consistency. LA never won more than two games back-to-back, while between Week 20 to 28, they took just four points and failed to win a single game.
One of the few bright spots was going unbeaten in three games against rivals LAFC but that was little consolation as fans had to once again watch a Playoff series without the Galaxy.
LA Galaxy transfer activity
- Marky Delgado (from Toronto FC, $400k)
- Douglas Costa (from Gremio, loan)
- Kelvin Leerdam (from Inter Miami, free transfer)
- Raheem Edwards (from LAFC, free transfer)
- Richard Sanchez (from North Texas SC, free transfer)
- Farai Mutatu (SuperDraft)
- Chandler Vaughn (SuperDraft)
- Callum Johnson (SuperDraft)
- Sebastian Lletget (to New England Revolution, $500k)*
- Jonathan dos Santos (to Club America, free transfer)
- Oniel Fisher (to Minnesota United, free transfer)
- Giancarlo Gonzalez (to Alajuelense, free transfer)
- Danilo Acosta (to Orange Couty, free transfer)
- Justin vom Steeg (to Portland Timbers, free transfer)
- Augustine Williams (to Charleston Battery, free transfer)
- Daniel Steres (to Houston Dynamo, undisc.)
- Ethan Zubak (to Nashville SC, undisc.)
- Kai Koreniuk (released)
- Eric Lopez (released)
* LA Galaxy will be paid another $800k if certain performance criteria are met.
Greg Vanney: Tactics and style of play
Vanney quickly got to work making the Galaxy a team in his image; possession-dominant and patient. That was all great, but the two biggest problems were how poor they were without possession, and how Vanney was unable to settle on a system. 4-4-2? 4-3-3? A back-five? Pick one!
The latter might well have influenced the former.
With their current personnel, you'd expect a 4-3-3 with marauding full-backs covered by a withdrawn No.6, and a box-to-box midfielder supporting at both ends. A front three of Douglas Costa, Chicharito, and Kevin Cabral could be among the strongest in MLS if they all click.
The Galaxy will see lots of the ball again and should be free-flowing in attack. It's all about how quickly they can adjust when they lose possession.
LA Galaxy predicted XI (4-3-3): Bond; Araujo, DePuy, Williams, Villafana; Raveloson, Delgado, Alvarez; Costa, Chicharito, Cabral.
Who are LA Galaxy's key players?
Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez
As mentioned, Chicharito was on fire last season after a very tough year on and off the field in 2020. Despite struggling with injuries and being limited to 1,736 MLS minutes, the Mexican striker still hit the net 17 times, placing him just two goals behind eventual Golden Boot-winner Taty Castellanos.
Unfortunately for Chicharito, he didn't get much help. The next-closest LA Galaxy goalscorers were stuck way back on five goals. The hope now, of course, is he strikes up a quick understanding with Douglas Costa to further elevate Vanney's attack.
And here is the conundrum. At his best, Douglas Costa has been an influential player in Italian, German, and Ukrainian title-winning sides, and a regular for Brazil. At his worst (and more recently), he's suffered with injuries and been relegated with Gremio in his homeland.
There's no doubting Costa has the quality to cut it in MLS if he can stay fit, and he definitely seems hungry for a new challenge. Whether or not he turns words into goals or assists could be the deciding factor behind success and failure for the Galaxy in 2022.
There are other big pieces in this Galaxy side, but Vanney definitely needed someone to make them a little more robust in the middle. LA were cut through far too easily without the ball last season.
Vanney has turned to an old faithful from his Toronto FC days to solve that, bringing in Marky Delgado.
The American midfielder made more tackles (60), blocks (51), and interceptions (70) than any other TFC player last season, while he was second only to Michael Bradley (260) for recoveries (254).
He has his uses with the ball, too, but Delgado is definitely here to add backbone to a previously brittle LA Galaxy team.
LA Galaxy 2022 season prediction
Douglas Costa is the very epitome of an LA Galaxy signing. Glitz, glamour, and a big name. But around him, Delgado is a smart signing while they've added depth in a couple more areas.
There are still plenty more problems for Vanney to solve with this roster. But if that front three clicks, they should be able to brute-force their way to enough wins to get back over the Playoff line.
That's such a big 'if', though...
Prediction: 8th in the Western Conference