I’m like you. I want to see incredible goals. I want to be in the stands when a sprinting player makes a heroic breakaway, when a fast-footed forward jukes the keeper, when a midfielder lets fly the game-winning goal from forty yards out. Nobody can knock the appeal of an individual moment of glory. I want to witness miracles.
But that’s not my favorite kind of soccer.
I’ve never had a favorite player. I did like Mike Magee — I liked his underdog status on a team chock-full of stars and I loved watching him rise above it. But when he moved to Chicago I didn’t become a Chicago fan. When Beckham left to spend his last few months playing in Paris I didn’t don a PSG scarf. We could lose Landon — I know it’s crazy but bear with me — we could trade away Donovan and I’d still root for LA. Because I don’t have a favorite player. I have a favorite team.
And I like to see my team score.
Like you, I loved what Leiweke did for the Galaxy. But when you put three of the best players in the league on the same team, it’s going to determine how that team plays. Get control of the ball. Find one of our stars. Wait for a miracle.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
That’s not always bad! I’m not saying I didn’t love watching Keane and Donovan dance through defenders. And I’d never suggest the rest of the team are talentless hacks. I liked Magee. I’m fond of Sarvas. Franklin, I think I loved. But a team built on the backs of a couple stars has a tendency to get predictable. By the end of 2013, the LA Galaxy were definitely that. The rest of the league had our number: the rest of the league knew that if they could shut down Landon and frustrate Robbie, the Galaxy didn’t have much else.
We were banking on miracles.
As much as I’ve loved watching big names play in LA, our next star shouldn’t be a multi-million dollar foreign signing. Our next star needs to be better soccer. Genuinely team-driven attacks. A dangerous player in every position. Unpredictability. Poise. Possession.
I think we’re seeing that already. There’s a distinct progression over the few preseason skirmishes we’ve seen this year. At first LA was a team futzing passes and failing to find each other on the field. Now they’re looking occasionally sharp. By the time March 8th rolls around they’ll be a team firing on all cylinders — and more importantly, a team that’s deemphasized its star talent.
Landon’s moved back to midfield, better positioned to smartly distribute the ball. Keane will be up front — but paired with another target man whose primary purpose is drawing defenders’ attention. That classic duo of Robbie and Donovan is still going to shine. But LA will increasingly, hopefully, be a team dangerous no matter who has the ball. We’ve seen that in the preseason. We watched San Jose succumb to a flurry of attacks from every direction. Now we just have to hope that can carry over into regular season play.
I love a good individual effort. I live for a goal like this. And I don’t think every goal-scoring play needs to involve every player. With Leiweke gone LA needs to become a team that doesn’t rely on the quick injection of irrepressible talent a big signing brings. We’re going to have to be a team relying on each other, a team focused on outmaneuvering, a team more creative. But that’s not bad.
That’s my favorite kind of soccer.