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Galaxy faces long winter after short playoff run

Jermaine Jones, Robbie Rogers
Colorado Rapids midfielder Jermaine Jones, rear, received a yellow card after taking down Galaxy forward Robbie Rogers during the second half in the first leg of an MLS semifinal in October 2016.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The Galaxy’s season may have ended in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Colorado Rapids, but Monday was still a work day for team President Chris Klein and Bruce Arena, the coach and general manager.

And both have a lot of work to do because next year’s team is likely to look a lot different than the one that made it to the MLS Western Conference semifinals this season.

Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard could lead an exodus of veterans that may or may not include Landon Donovan, who has hinted strongly he wants to keep playing.

Even Arena’s future may be on the table. The contract extension he signed in 2014 reportedly ends this year and while management would welcome back the most successful coach in league history, at 65 Arena is the oldest manager in MLS by more than a decade — and one of just a handful who also handles the GM duties.

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He’s not the only one who’s getting old, either. Eight of the 14 Galaxy players who appeared in Sunday’s game — including Keane, Gerrard and Donovan — are 32 or older and, privately, the team has said it will get younger this winter.

The Galaxy have also talked of bringing in two new designated players, and with one DP, Giovani dos Santos, already signed for next season, that means replacing Gerrard and Keane, whose contracts expire next month.

Gerrard, 36, the former Liverpool and English national team captain, will likely announce his retirement after an injury-marred season in which he appeared in just 22 games. But Keane, also 36, said he intends to play next season. It may not be with the Galaxy, though, since he would have to take a sizable pay cut from the $3.5 million he reportedly earned this year.

Donovan, meanwhile, played well after ending his 21-month retirement in September and has hinted he may want to stay un-retired. He was a cheap rental this fall, earning just $152,500, a pro-rated slice of the league’s maximum player charge of $457,500. But he’s likely to ask a lot more if he returns next season, meaning the Galaxy will either have give the 34-year-old one of their two vacant DP spots or will need some creative book-keeping to fit him in the payroll and stay under the league’s 2017 salary cap of $3.85 million.

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Forward Gyasi Zardes and defenders Robbie Rogers, Jelle Van Damme and A.J. DeLaGarza are all signed for next season and expected to return, Van Damme with a well-deserved raise. But the team must decide whether to exercise contract options on a number of others, including goalkeeper Brian Rowe, defenders Ashley Cole and Leonardo, aging forwards Alan Gordon and Mike Magee and midfielders Jeff Larentowicz, Sebastian Lletget, Baggio Husidic and Ema Boateng.

Expect as many as three of them to go.

Those decisions could be affected by next month’s MLS expansion draft. Teams are allowed to protect only 11 players from selection by first-year franchises in Atlanta and Minnesota, although once a team loses a player it is exempt from the rest of the draft.

“This isn’t like other leagues where you build a team and you say, ‘This is going to be our team for five years or so,’” said Arena, who turned over more than a third of his roster last winter and could make an equal number of changes this off-season. “The makeup of your team changes a fair amount from year to year . . . because of our various rules and salary cap.”

The turnover has been so great with the Galaxy, in fact, that if neither Keane nor Donovan return the team will start next season missing eight of the 11 players who started in their last MLS Cup final. That was just two years ago, but with Sunday’s playoff loss, the Galaxy will go a second season without reaching the final, the team’s longest drought since Arena took over in 2008.

With that loss still fresh in his mind, Arena wasn’t interested in speculating on the future of his roster.

“I don’t know anything about next year,” he said. “We just got finished playing.”

Asked whether he plans to return in 2017, Arena was only slightly more revealing.

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“As of now I am,” he said. “But we’ll see.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

 


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