Galaxy starts planning for next MLS season

Landon Donovan shouts to a teammate during the Galaxy's overtime loss to Real Salt Lake, 2-0, in second leg of the MLS Western Conference semifinal Thursday. The Galaxy's elimination in the semifinal is the team's earliest exit from the playoffs since 2008.
(Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

The Galaxy expected to spend the coming week preparing for the second leg of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference final. Instead, the team will spend it preparing for next year.

Thursday’s 2-0 overtime loss to Real Salt Lake in the conference semifinals not only spoiled the Galaxy’s quest for an unprecedented third consecutive MLS title, but it also marked the team’s earliest playoff exit since 2008.

As for why that happened, there are many ideas and several theories but no sure answers.

“Just because you’re L.A. Galaxy doesn’t mean automatically you should be getting to the final,” Robbie Keane said. “It doesn’t work like that.”

Only three MLS teams had more regular-season victories than the Galaxy’s 15 or scored more goals than the Galaxy’s 53, but the team never seemed to hit stride, failing to put together the kind of sustained streak that marked its last two seasons.


The retirement of David Beckham after last season and the May trade that sent Mike Magee to the Chicago Fire in exchange for the rights to Robbie Rogers may have something to do with that since it left the Galaxy without a third offensive threat after Keane and Landon Donovan.

Whatever the reason, that inconsistency proved especially costly in the playoffs. Although the Galaxy won the first leg, 1-0, at home, it squandered several scoring chances. It then proved unable to protect that slim margin in the second leg, managing only two shots on goal in 120 minutes to lose the series on aggregate scores, 2-1.

“It was a hectic season from start to finish with the travel and the schedule,” said Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena, whose team played 12 tournament games in five countries in addition to its MLS regular-season schedule. “It was just an odd year. I don’t think we ever really felt comfortable, for a variety of reasons.”

But if the season ended in disappointment, it wasn’t without achievement. The team won a spot in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, where it will play Club Tijuana of Mexico’s Liga MX in March.

Keane, a candidate for most valuable player, was the only player in the league to finish in the top four in goals (16) and assists (11), and Donovan, with 10 goals, equaled Jeff Cunningham’s MLS all-time record with 134.

“Despite the fact that we didn’t achieve our objective of winning a third consecutive championship, it was a solid year,” Arena said. “But we want to do more.”

And the team will return a nucleus of players to try to make that happen. Keane, Donovan, defender Omar Gonzalez, goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and Brazilian midfielder Juninho are signed for next season. The team has reached agreement on a contract with veteran defender Todd Dunivant and has signed former Chicago Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic from Swedish team Hammarby.

But to stay under the MLS club salary budget, which will grow to $3.1 million next season, the team has some decisions to make regarding other players, including versatile defender Sean Franklin, who was paid more than $248,000 this year but has an option that must be picked up by the club for next season.

“We look forward to next year,” Keane said. “We’ve been on a tremendous run the last couple of years. This league, anything can happen. It’s a strange league.”

Twitter: @kbaxter11