It has been a HUGE week for American soccer. As the powers that be disputed the future of the US Open Cup, the LA Galaxy released their 2024 schedule and made some moves that prepare them for all the competitions the first team may be eligible to play in.
With the arrival of Lionel Messi, more eyes have been on the MLS than ever before. There has been pressure on the league to position themselves to make the most of the World Cup holder’s time in the league. So, logically, the MLS tried to prohibit clubs from fielding their first team in the nation’s most historic competition. Wait, doesn’t that sound oxymoronic? Most of the world would agree.
US Soccer, the governing body of the beautiful game in the United States, reacted with a statement refusing the MLS’s ‘request’ that all clubs field only their MLS Next PRO teams for Open Cup games. Thanks to US Soccer and their “recommendation” (a kind term used in the statement to allow the MLS to track back without looking as bad) to maintain the Open Cup as it has been for nearly 110 years, clubs will have the same flexibility to field whichever players they like. They will likely continue to play with mostly MLS Next PRO players until the later stages of the competition anyway, but league commissioner Dan Garber learned that he lacks the authority to decide something that should be up to the clubs.
Even if the Galaxy does feel they would like to play those games with a younger squad, recent activity in the transfer window suggests that they will be more prepared to do so.
The MLS Super Draft took place on December 19th, bringing changes to the Galaxy roster. The first order of business for General Manager Will Kuntz was to trade their second-round pick in exchange for the player rights of 26-year-old forward Miguel Berry from Atlanta United. Berry has 14 goal contributions in 75 MLS appearances for Columbus Crew, D.C. United, and Atlanta.
Later on in the day, “the Galaxy selected goalkeeper Ethan Brandt from Western Michigan University (No. 46 overall) in the second round and midfielder Tucker Lepley from UCLA in the third round (No. 62 overall)”, according to the club’s press release. Both ex-college students will likely hone their skills for GalaxyII and are candidates for getting minutes in the opening rounds of the US Open Cup. Lepley is the more exciting of the two signings. He captained the Bruins in his last season for UCLA and was a massive part of their squad this year. For those who haven’t been following the Galaxy’s second time, be advised that Lepley will be one to watch in 2024.
Miguel Berry has not yet been signed to any sort of contract with the Galaxy. For now, Will Kuntz is happy to hold onto the player rights and give his team a couple of different options.
If they decide to keep Berry for themselves, the club can offer Berry a contract and will enjoy the services of a forward who at the very least will be suitable for a rotational role. With Dejan Joveljić still wearing the number 9 for LA you could expect to see Berry as a substitute for the Serbian or running alongside him on the wing.
If the Galaxy does hold on to Berry, Manager Greg Vanney will have a new profile of forward on his hands. At 6’3” he would be a greater target for crosses into the box than 5’9” Javier Hernandez, who relied more on his positioning to make himself a threat. Berry would be better suited at using his larger frame to compete with tough MLS defenders, making the Galaxy more of a threat off of a setpiece or in general play.
Another (potentially more exciting) option would be to sell or trade Berry in pursuit of another target. Will Kuntz was recently on the Corner of the Galaxy Podcast and shared that the Galaxy is close to maxing out its contract situation. This could hinder the club’s ability to sign the DP(s) they’ve been working so hard to recruit. By selling Berry, Kuntz could free up some cap space which might make the difference. Berry might also be included in a trade package, sweetening the deal for clubs the Galaxy may find themselves negotiating with. Either way, Berry is an asset that will have Kuntz’s mind overflowing with possibilities.
The latest update to the roster came earlier today, December 12th, when the club announced the signing of free agent John Nelson. The 25-year-old left-back most recently played for St. Louis City FC, where he contributed a career-high 1,268 minutes towards City’s Western Conference-topping campaign.
Nelson replaces Raheem Edwards, who left for Vancouver when the transfer window first opened. Read more about that move in Kuntz’s Kitchen.
Alongside 20-year-old Julian Aude, Nelson offers the Galaxy much-needed depth on that left flank. Expect to see Nelson and Aude rotate much like Raheem and Aude did in 2023.
After this most recent round of transfer window moves, the LA Galaxy have 10 roster spots open for new players. With two of these spots carrying a DP designation, expect an increase in both the number of signings and the accompanying excitement in the coming weeks.
Greg Vanney has made it clear that he wants to come into the pre-season matches with his squad completed. With the Coachella Valley Invitational starting in February, Will Kuntz will be hard at work to fill up those 10 spots with the best players possible pronto.
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PHOTOS: LA Galaxy