Can the 2009 Season Provide a Roadmap to Success in 2018 for LA Galaxy?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Below you will find a story that was sent to Corner of the Galaxy. Brian Von Wolfe is a guest writer and has a reasoned perspective on the LA Galaxy having watched and observed the team in 2008 and the rebuilding process in 2009. This article finds a perspective that allows a “We’ve been here before” story — something that shows a path out of being the “worst Galaxy team ever,” to becoming champions again.




The LA Galaxy are crashing.

And hurling towards the record for the worst overall season in team history.

No coaching change nor player acquisition seems to be enough to break the fall.

In times such as these, it is best to reflect on the seasons past. Not the good old days of raising MLS Cups nor being one the most feared and hated teams in the league.

No, the darker times. More specifically, the infamous 2008 season. Once considered the absolute worst season in recent team history.

It was a season that started with so much fanfare.

It was David Beckham’s first full season with the Galaxy, and the team had a newly appointed coach in Ruud Gullit. A man with European soccer pedigree, who coined the phrase “Sexy Football.” Team legend Cobi Jones was appointed Gullit’s assistant, Landon Donovan was at the peak of his powers, and Carlos Ruiz was back in a Galaxy uniform as the team’s third designated player.

Alas, the party was short-lived.

The Galaxy were trounced by the Colorado Rapids 4-0 in the home opener. Abel Xavier was sent off in 89’, Carlos Ruiz was severely injured on a tackle from behind by Ciaran O’ Brien in stoppage time, and Landon Donovan proceeded to try to choke O’Brien afterward.

The team did bounce back for a spell and was 4-2-3 heading into late June.

However, it was when the team tied the Columbus Crew 3-3 at home that the threads of the sexy football banner started to fray and the unraveling followed soon after that.

The Galaxy would go without a win for 12 consecutive games.

General Manager Alexi Lalas, the man who many people considered responsible for luring David Beckham to MLS, was fired. Gullit left the club citing “personal reasons” in mid-August.

Cobi Jones was appointed the interim head coach, and in his first game in charge, the Galaxy managed to draw with Chivas USA 2-2 thanks to a late Alan Gordon goal on August 15th.

It would prove to be Jones’ first and last appearance as head coach.
Bruce Arena was hired shortly after that on August 18th as head coach and general manager.

The team finished sixth in the Western conference on 33 points with an 8-13-9 record. Which currently stands as the Galaxy’s worst season-ending record in team history and the only time the team finished with single digits in the win column.

2008 MLS Regular Season Standings

So what does this all mean? Is there light at the end of the tunnel for the 2017 season?

Not likely.

The 2008 Galaxy team had talent. Even that dismal season produced rookie of the year, Sean Franklin. Landon Donovan won the golden boot scoring 20 goals, and Edson Buddle added 15 goals that
same season.

The team finished 2-3-5, under Arena for the remainder of 2008. The similarities are there. It didn’t end pretty then, and it won’t end pretty now.

In 2017, after the ouster of Head Coach Curt Onalfo, the Galaxy Front Office handed Sigi Schmid a roster depleted by injury, filled with an abundance of USL level talent, and a handful of highly paid, yet underperforming, players.

2017 is not 2008. And this current run of bad form will probably get worse before it ever gets better.

However, if history teaches us anything, it is that we can learn from the past.

Arena’s first move was to upgrade the goalkeeping position and sign Donovan Ricketts. In the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, Arena drafted Omar Gonzalez and AJ DeLaGarza with the 3rd and 19th picks respectively. Sticking with defense, he then brought home experienced defender Gregg Berhalter in April of 2009.

And while it may have been a cliched approach, it’s one that has been proven effective. The foundation for any team is defense – the blueprint is there.

The team allowed 30 goals in 2009. Down from 62 in 2008 and the Galaxy reached the MLS Cup Final that year only to lose to Real Salt Lake via extra time and a penalty shoot-out.

But reaching an MLS Cup Final in 2018 is a lofty expectation and something that is highly unlikely. The league is better than it was in then, and the quick team turnarounds of the past are no longer commonplace.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope.

The 2009 season can serve as a template for rebuilding. The end of the Bruce Arena era for the Galaxy has come to full fruition in 2017, and it is a sour thing to witness.

Perhaps the second coming of the Sigi Schmid era can bear the fruit of a different sort, and from the ashes of this historic crash, the team can once again find itself among the title-chasing elite.