If you were like me, gorging on the quadruple header of MLS quarterfinals on Sunday, you might have noticed something.
Or rather, you might have noticed something that wasn't there. The Los Angeles Galaxy lost in one of the play-in games at Seattle and weren't playing on Sunday. The Galaxy went from having an outside shot at the Supporters' Shield towards the end of the season to going on the road for a play-in game. A team that had been dominant at home throughout the season (12-2-3 at StubHub Center) didn't even get to play a game at home in the playoffs.
The Galaxy at one point looked like the most dominant team in the league, but struggled down the stretch. Back-to-back losses in the final two games (and more disturbingly a 5-2 home loss to Portland on the second to last game of the regular season) and just one win in their final seven games meant LA slid all the way to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and a date with Seattle on the road, another underachieving powerhouse club in MLS.
Seattle won 3-2 in a wild game and the Galaxy were sent home, which brings me to my point: the Los Angeles Galaxy were the most individually talented team in Major League Soccer history.
That's why their elimination from the MLS playoffs is such a big deal. It's not like they were an overwhelming favorite, the team did have serious issues on the road. However, I think it's more a statement of how far the league has progressed.
Let's break down the individual talent on the team (not even including Bruce Arena, the most accomplished coach in league history) to show why I believe this is the most talented team the league has ever seen.
Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard are among the elite designated players in league history. On top of a decorated European career, Keane has also been among the best MLS players ever just based on what he accomplished in his five seasons. Gerrard is among the most accomplished players to ever play in the league.
Gio dos Santos is one of Mexico's best players and, while his club form hasn't always matched his play with the national team, he remains an incredible talent that few in the league can match.
Omar Gonzalez and Gyasi Zardes are regulars with the U.S. national team.
Juninho is a two-time MLS All-Star.
Sebastian Lletget and Robbie Rogers either should be or will be regulars with the national team. Rogers has 18 caps and has had a career resurgence as a left back, always a position of need with the U.S. You can debate just how good he really is, but he's the seventh player mentioned. No other team in the league can say their seventh best player is arguably national team worthy. Lletget was once a big prospect with West Ham in England, but didn't work out there. He's 23 so a national team future still likely is ahead for him.
Leonardo and A.J. DeLaGarza are solid MLS defenders. Neither are star caliber, but they're both accomplished players in the league that plenty of teams would love to have on their back line.
Reserve forwards Alan Gordon and Edson Buddle both have national team caps. At 34 Buddle is past his prime, but he's still only coming off the bench. Gordon is only behind Jeff Cuningham for most goals as a substitute in league history.
Sorry for the Galaxy love fest, but it's true. This is why it's so amazing they didn't win the league title. MLS is getting good and it seems to only be getting better.
(As a side note, losing Panama No. 1 goalkeeper Jaime Penedo over a contract dispute really hurt the Galaxy. Donovan Ricketts was a significant step down and looking at the goals LA gave up in Seattle, he was at least partly at fault for two of the three goals.)
Filed under: MLS