Los Angeles, CA – Anytime you bring a high profile player from Europe into Major League Soccer you are running a big gamble as a club. Sure you can increase top line revenue with big names but then their performance on the pitch is under a microscope and some older players aren’t up for the physicality of the league.
Personally, I recognize Ashley Cole as one of the best left-backs in the world if not one of the top defenders in the world. I have been familiar with him as long as I can remember. From his time at Arsenal and Chelsea and, ultimately, was torn by his arrival from Serie A club A.S. Roma to Los Angeles.
I knew 100% that Ashley Cole had the ability and physicality to handle MLS. In fact, I was lucky enough to watch him play in Italy for one of the 11 games he managed to enjoy with his Italian club and could see he still had that special “something” to his play. My concern was at what cost was he coming into the LA Galaxy – a team that needed money for many positions. And was Ashley Cole really going to take MLS seriously?
“Not ready to relax on a beach yet” Ashley Cole (Upon joining AS Roma and why he didn’t want to join MLS)
I think the attitude a player comes to America with plays a big part in their success. On one side of the coin, you have the “Euro haters”, who can point to Steven Gerrard and Pirlo, and say they haven’t lived up to lofty fan or team expectations. These fans say that MLS is not a retirement league so they should go play somewhere else. However, look at Sebastian Giovinco, he came to this league with a serious point to prove and has done it since day one of his arrival to North America.
After watching Ashley Cole play over 200 minutes of soccer, I think you can clearly see he falls into the Giovinco category of a player with a serious point to prove to the world. Throughout Cole’s soccer career he has been a winner and I think the fact that the LA Galaxy have a history of winning was one of the big draws to picking this team.
“I felt okay. The more games I get under my belt the more confident I’ll get to how I know I can play because that was a problem before and I lost a bit of confidence. I think the confidence will come and I think my teammates have been very helpful and welcoming and I hope we can win some trophies.” Ashley Cole, LA Galaxy Defender, following the exhibition with Xolos
I took the time to make a career trophy comparison between Steven Gerrad and Ashley Cole to really show and highlight how much of a winning legacy Ashley Cole comes from.
7 FA Cup Titles (2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012)
1 League Cup (2007)
1 FA Community Shield (2009)
1 UEFA Champions League (2012)
1 UEFA Europa League (2013)
Total Trophies: 14
Games Played Per Trophy: 29.2
504 Professional European Games Played
1 Club (Liverpool)
2 FA Cup Titles (2001, 2006)
3 League Cup (2001, 2003, 2012)
1 FA Community Shield (2006)
1 UEFA Champions League (2005)
1 UEFA Cup (2001)
1 UEFA Super Cup (2001)
Total Trophies: 9
Games Played Per Trophy: 56
An interesting data point stuck out after running the numbers on Gerrard and Cole in a one-versus-one trophy cabinet show down. Ashley Cole averages a championship every season while Steven Gerrard averages one every two seasons. If that isn’t some data-point destiny for LA’s future then I don’t know what else is!
Before I declare Ashley Cole the reason LA Galaxy could win a title in 2016 I wanted to see him play a few games and log some serious minutes. The San Jose game really sold me on this being some Bruce Arena voodoo magic.
That game Cole managed an 88% pass completion rate and was more forward in the attack on the field than Gyasi Zardes at least a dozen times. He was just carrying the ball through the field, stripping the ball from the San Jose offense, and would use incredible vision to keep the game flowing. In fact, he was so good, you can notice as the games against San Jose moves on, that they refuse to even try and attack down that side of the field. San Jose only used the center and opposite side of the pitch to try and attack – they simply refused to try and attack directly at Cole.
If you aren’t sold on him just yet, then I implore you to watch his footwork in person at the next home game or pull up some old games on MLS Live and watch how fancy and impressive his footwork really is.
Really the only remaining question for most LA Galaxy fans is whether or not Ashley Cole has the legs to do this for a full season? If he can prove that 34 games isn’t too many for 35 year old legs then perhaps its time to explore if he wants to re-sign for 2017.