Over a week after the official end of the season, many fans are well on their way to repressing the memory of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s most recent season. For the masochists among us, it’s time to review some of the figures from 2023 and get an idea of the kinds of moves that might be coming in the off-season. Let’s also consider the current window’s newest rumor which links the Galaxy to a Spanish striker.
2023 was a historically awful year for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Instability rocked the club at all levels. Ex-president Chris Klein began the season leading the Galaxy despite a cheating scandal and years of continued failure, sparking a protest amongst fans. A boycott in the stands represented the fans’ displeasure with their side as Greg Vanney failed to deal with injuries and obtain any victories in the first ten matches of the season. The boycott would eventually pass after Klein’s departure in May, but injuries and a terrible habit of dropping points would plague the Galaxy all season long. It’s clear that the blue-white-and gold struggled in all areas this year, but a brief review of the season might reveal the type of business the front office will look to conduct this winter and beyond.
An especially poor defensive performance saw the club match its record for most goals conceded in a single season. With 67 goals against, no team in the MLS conceded more goals than the Galaxy did this year. A major reason was that Jalen Neal, Martin Cáceres, Lucas Calegari, and Gaston Brugman, among others, suffered season-ending injuries. With nearly the entire defensive system suddenly unavailable, Greg Vanney struggled to cobble together a passable defense with limited options. Even after the addition of veteran Maya Yoshida, the Galaxy backline was still vulnerable enough to be liable for 1.97 goals per game.
Having matched the club record for goals conceded in a single season, defensive reinforcements absolutely seem in order. After watching this club concede a brace every week, it may be easy to feel as if the Galaxy’s defense has gone down the gutter. 19 goals in the final six games definitely do seem to justify that thought, but it is worth remembering that most of the 67 goals conceded this season came against a backline of substitutes. 2024 should see the return of Cáceras and Neal, LA’s original first-choice center-backs. Maya Yoshida adds depth to this position, which as demonstrated by this season is especially crucial.
With their centrebacks somewhat sorted, the Galaxy still have unanswered questions in other areas of their defense. Lucas Calegari put in an excellent argument towards becoming the Galaxy’s man at right back, but as a loan player with a new long-term injury (ACL), his future in LA is contentious, to say the least. If the Galaxy doesn’t decide to stick with Calegari through his recovery or is unable to convert his loan from Fluminense into a permanent deal, they will be left with Mauricio Cuevas and pretty much no depth in that position. Resolution at right back may take some time to arrive as the Galaxy negotiates with Calegari’s parent club but figuring out how to properly staff this position will be a top task for the off-season.
Defensive deficiencies placed the onus on Galaxy forwards to drag the team to points. Without their star striker and captain Javier Hernandez, LA’s attackers managed a respectable 51 goals. Considering that on an average season, the Galaxy will score 50.5 goals, a slight overperformance might indicate that little adjustment is needed upfront. Unfortunately, upfront is where we are likely to see the most changes this season. Two of the Galaxy’s three designated players in 2023 were attackers: Javier Hernandez and Douglas Costa. Neither of them will be playing in Los Angeles next year, and the Galaxy are actively pursuing their replacements.
The Galaxy are about to lose two of their biggest names and have a large task in replacing their club captain and leading striker along with the only player who offered Riqui Puig any significant help this year. The public seems to be puzzled as to how the decision-makers in Carson will fill the vacuum upfront, as old rumors begin to resurface. On November 1st, Spanish media outlet Relevo re-circulated the previous season’s news that the LA Galaxy have evaluated Álvaro Morata’s situation and may be preparing to present the player an offer. Although an excellent idea, as the 31-year-old is a goal scorer with no major injury history, the Galaxy’s evaluation of the situation must have revealed that Morata is currently playing some of the best football of his career for an Atletico Madrid who currently sits 3rd in La Liga.
Although it’s unlikely that Morata will end up being the Galaxy’s talisman in 2023, Greg Vanney and Will Kuntz must identify the man who will be. With two available designated player spots and the potential for more pending changes in the league’s rules, they have every opportunity to land the right player should they become available. For the front office, their winter will be full of situation monitoring and acquiring talent to fill gaps up front and in defense.
There will be plenty of news this off-season as deals get made and pieces get added. Be sure to check back in with Galaxy Nation to hear about all the important updates and find out what they could mean for the Galaxy in 2024.