Soccer

Galaxy starts preparing for another championship run

Galaxy moves forward without Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan slept in Monday.

On the first morning of his retirement, he had nowhere to be and nothing to do.

"It feels great," said Donovan, who closed Sunday a 16-year career with a record sixth Major League Soccer championship. "I don't have to train anymore."

But rest was not a luxury Bruce Arena, Donovan's former coach, could enjoy. He was in the Galaxy offices before 9 a.m. Monday to begin work on next season.

And there's a lot of work to be done.

Although Donovan, the best player the U.S. has produced, is gone, many of the core players who Sunday helped the Galaxy win an unprecedented fifth MLS title are signed for 2015, among them defenders Robbie Rogers, Omar Gonzalez and A.J. DeLaGarza. Team captain and league most valuable player Robbie Keane, who scored the game-winning goal Sunday, will also be back.

Longtime Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant may not be, however. He was among 10 players the team made available for Wednesday's MLS expansion draft.

Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo is among those with an option for next year. And although the team and Penedo hope to work something out, Galaxy President Chris Klein says the absence of a collective bargaining agreement with the players union — the current deal expires Jan. 31 — makes it difficult to predict how much the team will be able to spend and still get under the MLS salary cap, which was $3.1 million last season. The Galaxy is operating on the assumption the cap will increase slightly, as it has done in previous seasons.

The Galaxy could get some unanticipated help in preparing for next year when the league office decides how, or if, to compensate the team for allowing Manchester City's Frank Lampard to sign a two-year contract with MLS expansion club New York FC. The Galaxy says it had agreed to a deal with Lampard that would have brought the former Chelsea star to Los Angeles.

But the most significant change involves Donovan, whose retirement at 32 leaves the Galaxy with a designated player spot to fill. Each MLS team is allotted a maximum of three designated players, whose salaries can exceed the salary cap. Klein said the team is exploring several options but will not rush its decision to get a signing done during the January transfer window.

"Patience is the key," said Klein, who added that the Galaxy has not spoken to Jozy Altidore, a U.S. national team forward who is likely on his way out of English Premier League club Sunderland next month. Reports, including one on the player's Twitter page, have linked the Galaxy to Altidore.

"We've made no secret that the profile of that [designated] player's important," Klein said. "It could be a domestic player, could be a foreign player. We want to find what's best to keep this team at that top level. Our league is built on parity but it's our job to kind of bust that year after year."

And they've done that, with a 2-1 overtime victory over New England on Sunday, giving the Galaxy its third championship in four seasons.

"That's impressive stuff," Arena said. "That's a bit of a dynasty at this point."

Keeping that going will be challenging. Not only did the Galaxy get a late start on 2015 — MLS teams that didn't reach the playoffs began their off-season work in October — but Arena, the team's general manager as well as its coach, will undergo knee replacement surgery next week.

"There's no real off-season for us. You get right back into it," said Klein, who beat Arena to work Monday morning. "It's the sport that we have and the life that we live. And no matter how the season ends, we're as motivated as ever to keep going.

"So we hit the ground running on all fronts."

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
79°