Last season was the L.A. Galaxy’s shortest since 2008, the last time the team missed the playoffs. And that gave Gio dos Santos a long offseason to think about what happened.
“Nothing in life is easy,” he said in Spanish. “We all go through some difficult times and last year was one of those. It was a really sad year.
“We don’t want to repeat that this year. None of us do.“
So the team is starting over. When the Galaxy open training camp Monday at StubHub Center in Carson, they will welcome 11 players who weren’t with the team when camp opened last year.
Gone are two team captains in Jelle van Damme and Jermaine Jones, all three goalkeepers and five homegrown players, among them national team midfielder Gyasi Zardes, the last remaining starter from the 2014 MLS Cup team. The housecleaning was a bold admission last year’s 8-18-8 team — which set franchise records for losses, fewest points (32) and goals allowed (67) while matching the record for fewest victories — was ill-conceived from the start.
In its place, coach Sigi Schmid has completely remade his lineup, bringing in as many as seven new starters. And he may not be done since the Galaxy still are talking to a handful of players, among them free-agent midfielder Chris Pontius.
From the ruins of the only last-place team in franchise history, Schmid and his staff deftly built a roster that could compete for a playoff spot, if not a lengthy postseason run.
“I can’t say enough about the job that our technical staff put in this offseason,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said. “This [was] a lot of work, a lot of man hours, a lot of plane flights. We’re excited about the pieces that we have.”
Still, Schmid didn’t have the final piece in place until Friday, when the team sent Zardes and $400,000 in allocation money to the Columbus Crew for Norwegian striker Ola Kamara.
Only two MLS players had more goals over the past two seasons than Kamara’s 34, filling a major hole on a Galaxy team that had just one player, midfielder Romain Alessandrini, score more than six times in 2017.
“He’s a great striker,” Dos Santos said of Kamara. “He’s a goal scorer. His movements are always dangerous. So I think we’re going to have good chemistry.”
Building that chemistry will begin Monday, when the new-look Galaxy get together for the first time. That’s not the only thing the team will be focusing on, though; Schmid also has a number of lineup questions to answer.
Former San Jose Earthquakes goalie David Bingham is the starting keeper and Kamara will be the target striker. But left back Ashley Cole is the only player with a guaranteed spot on the back line while in the midfield, Schmid will be building around a core of Alessandrini, Dos Santos and Dos Santos’ younger brother Jonathan.
Sebastian Lletget figures to join them if he can prove he’s healthy after missing the final seven months last season with a broken bone in his foot.
“Last year was complicated from the start. And at the end the team wasn’t stable,” said Jonathan dos Santos, who joined the Galaxy from Spanish club Villarreal in late July, the same week Schmid replaced Curt Onalfo as coach. “But we’re lucky that in the offseason we made some good signings.
“We can’t look back on last year.”
His brother insists he’s already closed the book on that season. There’s nothing he can do to change the past, so he’s concentrating on the future.
“I’m excited and anxious,” he said. “It’s hard to talk about last year. But … I hope next year, if we’re sitting here again, we’re talking about a successful year for the club. That’s what I want most, from the first day. The team’s just coming together. But we can have a great year.
“I’m hungry to achieve the goals we set when I came here.”
Goalkeepers: David Bingham, Brian Sylvestre
Defenders: Hugo Arellano, Michael Ciani, Ashley Cole, Rolf Feltscher, Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Emrah Klimenta, Dave Romney, Jorgen Skjelvik, Daniel Steres
Midfielders: Romain Alessandrini, Ema Boateng, Servando Carrasco, Gio dos Santos, Jonathan dos Santos, Baggio Husidic, Sebastian Lletget, Perry Kitchen, Joao Pedro
Forward: Ariel Lassiter, Bradford Jamieson IV, Ola Kamara