COG STUDIOS, Calif. — Now that the 2018 LA Galaxy season is officially over, after what can only be described as a heart-wrenching loss in an almost inconceivable way to the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the final charts and graphs that tell the story of how this season was lost.
After all, the comparable talent from 2017 to this current season is almost laughable to compare. The 2018 Galaxy were a more exciting, and more talented team to watch. And while much of that can be attributed to Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his 22 goals and 10 assists, the Galaxy also added some real standouts this season and their impact on the Galaxy shouldn’t be discounted.
The club, however, was far from perfect and will remain imperfect while the Galaxy contemplates another new coach and perhaps a third consecutive roster overhaul — there have been more misses than hits with each rebuilding.
But the 2018 Galaxy squad was competitive. Had they gotten into the playoffs their ceiling was high enough to trouble the conference leaders. And while the season was a huge disappointment, the Galaxy took a small step forward towards some stability.
Let’s take a look at some of the charts and graphs that we’ve been monitoring for the entire season and see how the Galaxy compare to themselves across the years.
WHERE THE POINTS WERE LOST:
After the final game of the 2018 regular season, we’ve debuted a new chart that tracked the Galaxy’s points per month in 2018. It also has the habit of showing where the Galaxy suffered some of their most successful runs this season and where they faltered.
Of particular interest is that the Galaxy had the strongest run of the season through June and July. And while there were points dropped in July — draws to DC United and the San Jose Earthquakes come to mind — the 2.33 points per game average in their busiest month put the Galaxy into contention.
But that momentum was quickly halted with a horrible August that bled into a mediocre September. In fact, August was their worst month of the year and garnered just three points from five games.
To back up that data, we plotted the Galaxy’s position on the table throughout the season. And you can see the rise that begins to take place in week 17 of the season and continue through 21. The Galaxy top out on this chart in second in the Western Conference early in the season after beating Los Angele Football Club on March 31. But their midseason peak at third should have put them in a position to easily qualify for the playoffs. Instead, the slip in August and September left them in eighth place and then in seventh place for the remaining weeks of the season.
The volatility is obvious in the chart. And looking back, it’s hard to believe the Galaxy fell just three points short of a playoff position. Especially when it’s fairly easy to find games they should have won in 2018 or points they should have earned from winning positions. Even Sunday’s game is an example of that.
OFFENSE, DEFENSE, AND A HOME RECORD:
Next well look and see how the 2018 Galaxy faired against their previous brethren. Some of our favorite charts are in trying to compare the current club with those that have come before them.
The Galaxy finished with 48 points this season. Which, year over year, is quite the improvement from last season. But 2017 was also the worst season in franchise history.
The 2017 Galaxy finished with 32 points while scoring just 45 goals and allowing 67 goals — the latter a new club record. Their goal differential finished at minus-22 which was also a Galaxy franchise record.
In 2018, the Galaxy scored 66 goals on the season which placed them second in the conference behind Los Angeles Football club with 68 goals and put them third in the league behind Atlanta United who scored 70 goals.
But the defensive issues weren’t corrected in 2018. The Club allowed 64 goals the second-worst season in history and combined to allow 131 goals over two seasons.
And while the Galaxy improved on their worst season last year in terms of points per game, the final tally, a 1.41 points per game in 2018 marks the second-worst ppg in the last 10 years. And it’s only the 8th time in franchise history they’ve fallen to or below that mark.
At home, the Galaxy did struggle to pick up points. They earned an 8-5-4 record that saw them collect a total of 28 points from those games. In the Western Conference only Vancouver (7), Colorado (6), and San Jose (2)had fewer home wins than the 2018 Galaxy.
And across their history, only five other teams had failed to reach 29 points at home. Had the Galaxy won their final home game of 2018, however, they would have fallen almost exactly on the historical average of just over 30 points.
INDIVIDUALS HIGHS AND UGLY DP NUMBERS:
We’ve already touched on the impact Ibrahimovic had on the Galaxy. But his season was actually the second best by any Galaxy player in terms of goal scoring. Only Carlos Ruiz has scored more goals in a single Galaxy season than Ibrahimovic (24 goals in 2002).
But Ibrahimovic also tallied 10 assists on the season. Thereby having a hand in 32 goals on the field. That leaves his non-penalty goals plus assists per 90 at the highest in the league at 1.18. And that, of course, discounts his four penalty kick goals in four attempts this season.
Ruiz had three penalty kick goals in four attempts in 2002 and only one assist in that MLS-Cup-winning year.
On the other side of things, you have the three designated players for the Galaxy who combined to play just over 50-percent of the total available minutes in 2018.
The most glaring of those statistics is that Giovani dos Santos, the highest paid player on the team ($6-million) played in just 14 games, started just 10 games, and only tallied three goals in 823 minutes played.
What Galaxy fans saw from Ibrahimovic in 2018 was probably the single best season from a Galaxy player in club history. And despite it being from one of the largest personalities on the planet, it will go unnoticed by some because of the lack of a postseason appearance.
Meanwhile, Kamara and Ibrahimovic, both signed under Targeted Allocation Money rules each surpassed 79-percent of the available minutes.
And our final look at the numbers allows us to break it down by cost per game, cost per goal, and cost per minute. The value of some players becomes immediately apparent. The value of others just raises more questions.
When the Galaxy make some hard decisions in the offseason, expect the value of certain players to be evaluated in exactly this manner. And when all is said and done, don’t be surprised if their willing to part with significant cash to make Ibrahimovic a Designated Player.
A SEASON COMPARISON IN CHARTS:
Finally, we get to our view of the season as a whole.
This is one of our favorite series of charts and really gives a sense of how the Galaxy did in 2018. And then allows you to compare that with all the previous seasons to find some patterns and trends.
The club finished with its second-worst point total in franchise history since MLS went to the 34-game season in 2011.
In the video below, you can see the progression by each game and see the starts and stalls to the 2018 season while comparing that to every other Galaxy season.
To close it all out, we plotted every Galaxy season on a line graph so you can see relative positions and number of games played.
The Galaxy underperformed in 2018. Similar to the 2015 team in terms of talent, the defense couldn’t be salvaged to highlight one of the highest-scoring offenses in club history. That shortcoming alone cost the Galaxy many games in which they were leading and in which they lost points from positive positions.
If the Galaxy are somehow able to keep the same offense from 2018 and reinforce the backline stop the bleeding of goals, they’ll be championship contenders.
But that’s something that Sigi Schmid tried to do over the last offseason.
And without a head coach or a general manager, the club is already losing time in identifying, scouting and landing new talent for 2019. And the decisions on who stays and who goes are also up in the air until the front office can come up with a structure that allows for some success.
The Galaxy had talent in 2018. But they lacked a defensive structure (outside of the last four games) and they lacked the consistency to be able to use Ibrahimovic to his fullest extent.