The LA Galaxy are no strangers to being in the spotlight during a transfer window, but usually the decisions made by the brass at the StubHub Center are met with praise.
But that has not been the case this offseason as two of the club's best players were sold to Liga MX, and their rumored replacements only have a few years left in their legs.
There was no doubt that head coach Bruce Arena's side was in need of a retooling after the five-time MLS Cup champions fell out of the Western Conference playoffs in the knockout round at the hands of rival Seattle Sounders. However, no one expected the change to involve the team's best center back and the rock of the midfield.
During a short span in December, Omar Gonzalez left the Galaxy for Club Pachuca and midfielder Juninho was transferred to Club Tijuana. The departure of the two title winners left the Galaxy with only five members of the starting 11 that helped hoist the 2014 MLS Cup.
In addition to Gonzalez and Juninho, Jaime Penedo, Stefan Ishizaki, Marcelo Sarvas and Landon Donovan have left the club for a multitude of reasons. Penedo left in the summer of 2015 due to a contract dispute, Ishizaki opted to go back home to Sweden earlier in 2015, and Sarvas was traded to the Colorado Rapids to make way for Steven Gerrard in midfield. And as we all know, Donovan retired from soccer following his run to the championship in 2014.
An argument can be made that the Galaxy haven't upgraded as a whole since winning their fifth MLS Cup on December 7, 2014. Donovan Ricketts was a bust in net after Penedo left, Ishizaki's void on the wing was never truly filled, and Gerrard left fans wanting more with his performances in the middle of the park.
Instead of injecting a much-needed boost of youth into the starting 11 by way of their USL club, LA Galaxy II, the Galaxy are trying to bring in wiser veterans from Europe, which has many questioning the competency of the front office.
Former Arsenal and Chelsea man Ashley Cole is the biggest name on the Galaxy's shopping list. Cole, who spent little time on the pitch with Roma in Serie A, enters MLS as a 35-year-old left back who hasn't seen consistent playing time since he left Chelsea.
The lack of action is a concern, but it also means Cole will be fresh to start the season. Goal.com's Ives Galarcep confirmed on Tuesday that Cole will be joining the Galaxy following a termination of his contract at Roma.
Cole's entrance into the lineup will bring about a few options for Arena to maneuver his squad into different positions. With Cole at left back and A.J. DeLaGarza at right back, Robbie Rogers could end up in midfield, where he started his career, and contribute more to the attack from the wing.
With plenty of players in reserve at the USL level and the need to find a constant provider for Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes, Rogers' move to midfield on occasion and Cole's presence at left back may help LA.
The other two names linked with the Galaxy are also defensive-minded players. Standard Liege defender Jelle Van Damme and AC Milan midfielder Nigel de Jong have had their names attached to the Galaxy recently, per Galarcep. Both players would bring more experience to the defensive spine in front of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who was acquired in a trade with FC Dallas at the start of the offseason.
LA's back four could feature DeLaGarza, Van Damme, new signing Jeff Larentowicz and Cole. De Jong would presumably end up in central midfield with Gerrard, while a mixture of Zardes, Dos Santos, Rogers, Baggio Husidic, Sebastian Lletget and Jose Villarreal occupy the wings with Keane up top.
Only four of the players mentioned above enter the season 26 years old or younger. That is a concerning fact for the Galaxy, who also have forwards Alan Gordon and Mike Magee, both 31 or older, on the bench. But it could also be setting LA up to achieve something no MLS club has ever done: win the CONCACAF Champions League.
With a continental title on their mind, the Galaxy could potentially enter the 2016 campaign with players who have won titles in England, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as a pair of UEFA Champions League winners. That experience will be needed beginning in February, when the Galaxy square off against Santos Laguna of Liga MX in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
If Arena brings in all of the players his club is linked with and has his returning players in full fitness by the time February comes around, the Galaxy have a legitimate chance of winning the tournament, which ends with a two-legged final at the end of April.
If the Galaxy opt to go after the CONCACAF Champions League crown, they will not be jeopardizing their league hopes since the competition ends during the second month of the MLS regular season. If Arena plays his veterans in midweek against North America's best, he could give some young players valuable playing time early in the league calendar before they drop back down to the USL side.
If securing the first MLS capture of the CONCACAF Champions League since it was remodeled in 2008 is the ultimate goal, Arena's moves will be graded as brilliant no matter how old the new acquisitions are. The goal of professional soccer clubs is to win championships, and that is exactly what the Galaxy appear to be attempting on the continental level.
As for the young players who have grown leaps and bounds with LA Galaxy II, they will get to train each day under an experienced player at each position. If the Galaxy groom their prospects the right way, which they have with Zardes, the future of the club could take over in two years when Keane, Gerrard, De Jong, Cole and Van Damme fade their way out of the first team.
LA's master plan in the transfer market may not be ideal for a league that is getting younger with each year, but the Galaxy have never really followed trends when it comes to acquiring players. After all, their additions of David Beckham and Dos Santos helped roll out the designated player and target allocation money programs.
With the future of the team developing in the USL for the next two years, bringing in wily veterans who know how to win championships makes perfect sense for the Galaxy. We may not like it now, but the Galaxy could easily prove us wrong with a trophy or two over the next few years.
Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.
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