It was less than a year ago that the Galaxy cut ties with more than a half-dozen productive veterans to chart a new, revolutionary path forward, one paved heavily with young players the team developed internally.
Monday, five weeks after completing the worst season in franchise history, the team reversed course again, telling 13 players they don’t figure in its plans for next season by declining their contract options. Jettisoned were forwards Jack McBean, Jack McInerney and Jose Villarreal; midfielders Jermaine Jones, Raul Mendiola, Jaime Villarreal and Rafa Garcia; defenders Nathan Smith, Pele van Anholt and Bradley Diallo; and goalkeepers Jon Kempin, Brian Rowe and Clement Diop.
The Galaxy picked up contract options on midfielder Emmanuel Boateng, forwards Bradford Jamieson IV and Ariel Lassiter and defenders Daniel Steres and Dave Romney. Defender Ashley Cole and midfielder Baggio Husidic have contracts that expire at the end of the year but Husidic has already said he is coming back and the team is expected to return Cole as well.
Also returning are midfielders Romain Alessandrini, Jonathan dos Santos, Sebastian Lletget and Joao Pedro; defenders Hugo Arellano and Michael Ciani; and forward Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes.
Many of those who had their options declined are homegrown players or players developed in the Galaxy academy system. And with the exception of Jones, Rowe, McInerney and Van Anholt, none made more than $82,500 in 2017, meaning there was little financial benefit for the team in cutting them.
Those separations are not irrevocable, though, since the Galaxy can re-sign the players this winter.
“You can never say never,” said Sigi Schmid, the Galaxy’s coach and general manager. “Things change all the time so you have to be open and you’ve got to be flexible. Everything is always open for a revisit or a rediscussion.”
Jones, a Schmid favorite, could be one of the players the team revisits if it can get him for less than the $722,500 he was guaranteed this season.
“I thought Jermaine played at the end of the season for sure,” Schmid said. “But we want to also give ourselves as much flexibility as possible in this offseason. So that dictated a little bit the moves that we were making as well.”
Either way the team is left looking at a massive roster rebuild for the third winter in a row. And for the third winter in a row, that rebuild will be will be directed by a different architect.
In 2015, in his final winter as coach and general manager, Bruce Arena declined the options on eight players, let two others leave on transfers and waived two more. The team he built in their place made it to the Western Conference final.
Last winter, the first under general manager Pete Vagenas, the team cut ties with 11 players, including seven — Alan Gordon, Robbie Keane, Jeff Larentowicz, A.J. DeLaGarza, Dan Kennedy, Mike Magee and Landon Donovan — who each had at least 125 games of MLS experience. The players that replaced them finished 8-18-8, the worst record in franchise history.
“We will be a more experienced team than we were last year,” Sigi Schmid said. “We relied to make too large of an extent on young players. And we need to make sure that we fit those young players in with some veterans players as well.”
The rebuilding could begin in earnest early next month. On Dec. 10, the MLS will open a four-hour trade window and later that week the league will hold waiver and re-entry drafts, in which teams can select players who are no longer under contract with rival clubs.
The Galaxy will pick first in both drafts.
Teams will also be able to negotiate next month with free agents who, under MLS rules, are defined as out-of-contract players who are at least 28 years old and have no fewer than eight years of MLS service.
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11