As the Galaxy stumbled to the finish line of their worst-ever season last fall, coach Sigi Schmid promised there would be changes.
Lots of them.
“Obviously,” he said with a grimace, “we’re looking to add some players.”
So Schmid was all smiles Friday after completing a dramatic offseason makeover with his biggest move to date, one that sent national team midfielder Gyasi Zardes to Columbus for forward Ola Kamara.
Landing a dangerous striker was the last and most important item on Schmid’s winter to-do list and with the addition of Kamara, he will open preseason training camp Monday with a likely starting lineup featuring eight players who weren’t on the active roster when the coach joined the team in July.
The Galaxy also sent the Crew $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money ey in the deal, a payment that will grow by another $100,000 if Kamara scores 12 goals this season.
The addition of Kamara, a 28-year-old from Norway, adds punch to an offense that was shut out 11 times in 34 games last season. In his first two years in MLS, Kamara had 34 goals, third-most in the league over that span.
“We needed someone to score for us. And a forward is what we missed,” Galaxy president Chris Klein said. “We were able to fill that need with a player that has done it in our league better than almost anyone the past couple of years.
“He’s a key piece that we needed.”
Almost as important, Klein said, was Kamara’s desire to come to Southern California.
“He wanted to play for this club,” Klein said.
In addition, the trade answered Schmid’s problem over what to do with Zardes. A homegrown player who grew up in Hawthorne, in the shadow of the Galaxy’s StubHub Center home, Zardes scored 17 times in his second pro season in 2014, the final goal coming in the Galaxy’s last MLS Cup win.
But he has scored 14 regular-season goals in three years since then, just two of them coming last year. That lack of a consistently dangerous player up front was a big reason why the Galaxy finished at the bottom of the MLS standings for the first time in 2017, with a franchise-worst 8-18-8 record.
Klein said he’s hopeful a change of scenery will help Zardes, 26, get his game back on track.
“The service that Gyasi has given to this club during his time here, he’s one of ours,” Klein said of Zardes, whose attitude and community work made him one of the team’s most popular players. “To part ways with him is sad. But it is part of what we do.
“And I’m confident he’s going to continue his great career in Columbus.”
Zardes earned $577,500 in 2017, $95,000 more than Kamara, who will get a new contract with a raise in the trade. The Galaxy also need to clear an international roster spot for Kamara before the March 4 season-opener. The Galaxy are maxed-out with foreign players at seven.
In a Sunday night event at the Novo at LA Live the Galaxy expect to introduce Kamara, along with many of the team’s other additions, “to each other” Klein said, “and to our fans.”
Earlier Friday, the Galaxy and their new cross-town rival, LAFC, shared the top three selections in the MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia, with the expansion club taking University of Akron defender Joao Moutinho, a 19-year-old from Portugal, with the first pick and University of Pacific defender Tristan Blackmon with the third pick.
LAFC obtained the third pick a couple of hours before the draft by sending $200,000 in allocation money to D.C. United.
In between the Galaxy chose Stanford defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce with the No. 2 pick.
“I was completely surprised. I really didn’t have an idea if I was going to be first, second, third or fourth,” said Moutinho, who many draft observers had listed behind Hilliard-Arce. “I’m just so excited right now I can’t really put into words what I’m feeling.”
The Galaxy were among who expected Hilliard-Arce to go with the top pick, and they had arranged their draft strategy accordingly. With the 22-year-old still the board when it came time for them to pick, the Galaxy called a time out — which is permissible in the MLS draft — to talk things over.
Schmid, who was monitoring the draft by phone from his hotel room while dealing with a severe flu, was among those insisting the team take Hilliard-Arce, a view that eventually won out.
Both teams also had second-round selections. LAFC, picking first, took Spanish midfielder Pol Calvet from the University of Pittsburgh with the 24th overall pick while the Galaxy, with the 17th selection in the second round, took midfielder Drew Skundrich of Stanford.
“Things went well,” LAFC coach Bob Bradley said after the draft. “We just focused on trying to build a team. And find[ing] talented players, smart players, guys that we think, when we work with them, are going to grow.
“We saw some opportunity. We’re comfortable with where we are on the money end.”