“It’s little and broken. But still good. Yeah, still good.” — Stitch
Yeah, we suck. We aren’t scoring. We aren’t winning. Definitely no tiger blood at the HDC right now. But it’s not yet time to panic.
I just happened to run into Kyle Martino (@kylemartino) at the car wash last weekend. Great guy. Enjoyed talking to him. He said one thing that I thought was key: we just have to make the playoffs.
Teams that win the MLS Cup aren’t necessarily the ones who are best at the start of the season. They are almost always the teams hitting their stride at the end of the season. So no need to panic yet. MLS Cup is still within our grasp. But make no mistake, there will need to be a substantial turnaround if we are going to get there.
First, I think we need a quick look at what caused the problems. I think it comes down to two factors. The first, and I think lesser, is the Omar deficit. One defender can’t be the deciding factor that unhinged a team of our caliber. But his absence has left our defense in shambles. Moreover, his presence on the line made the players around him better. We have yet to find a substitute.
The second factor is mental. It is hard for any team in any league to win repeat titles. The players have been there, done that. It is incredibly challenging to recreate that magical brew of factors that propelled them to the previous title. This season our solution to that problem was the Champions League. The goal of expanding our accomplishments against the best in the region gave us something to rally for. I think Arena made a terrible mistake playing all his starters on the home opener against RSL. I said at the time I would have played a complete B team and taken the loss to have the starters rested for the critical home match against Toronto. Instead they were visibly worn out (especially Buddle) and we lost not just the game but our raison d’être. We have yet to regain our purpose.
So what can be done? That’s something really only Arena can answer. But we can offer thoughts.
First, shake things up. I agree with J-ro’s comment on the COG podcast that I’d rather see McBean getting time at this point than Barrett or Cristman. I also agree it may be time to take AJ out of the middle, especially with Leo reportedly coming back.
I’d start looking at transfers too. Although options may be limited there. I would love to see us get Del Piero from Juventus. He has said he is leaving Serie A. He loves LA and would play here. The dream would be getting him for non DP money and dropping Buddle and others for him. But I’d even consider giving up Keane to get him. Not that Keane is bad. He’s just not as consistent as Del Piero.
There is speculation that Bocanegra could leave Rangers for MLS. I don’t think we could get him without giving up a DP and I wouldn’t give up Keane for a defender. Maybe if Everton stumbles on a brick load of cash we could send Donovan over to make room, but I doubt it.
But the main change really has to be mental. Arena must find a way to re-instill the passion that got us through last year. Losing players to the European Cup and Olympics is not going to make that easier. But it may force Arena to try new players or new systems, any one of which could be the unexpected key to jump starting this season.
For now though, I’m just reassuring myself that this season is how I prove that I’m not a fair weather fan. Let’s see where this journey takes us. And don’t forget your Galaxy towels.