Is Bruce Arena Loading Up for One Last MLS Cup Run with the LA Galaxy?

Peter Galindo@@GalindoPWFeatured ColumnistFebruary 10, 2016

LA Galaxy head coach and general manager, Bruce Arena, center, introduces Jelle Van Damme, left, from Standard Liege in Belgium, and former Arsenal and Chelsea defender Ashley Cole at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 5, 2016. With the signing, Van Damme and Cole join Steven Gerrard and Robbie Keane as the biggest stars on the LA Galaxy. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Galaxy have undergone the most intriguing offseason in Major League Soccer.

At first, the idea of the Galaxy signing experienced players like Ashley Cole indicated that the club was falling behind, per Sean Steffen of SB Nation. Now, it appears as if there's an actual plan.

Head coach Bruce Arena is trying to win the MLS Cup and other trophies, in what could be his last season with the Galaxy.

Arena signed a multi-year extension before the 2014 season. Due to MLS rules, the terms were not disclosed, but at 64 years old, the American tactician may be tempted by another challenge in the near future.

Arena admitted to ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle that he'd like to stay in the game, but he didn't know whether it would be with LA or another team.

Whatever he decides to do after the upcoming season, Arena's ambition for 2016 was made clear this winter.

Bruce Arena was clearly unhappy with how the 2015 season ended, which may explain the flurry of moves the LA Galaxy have made.
Bruce Arena was clearly unhappy with how the 2015 season ended, which may explain the flurry of moves the LA Galaxy have made.Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Galaxy sold defender Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Juninho to Pachuca and Club Tijuana, respectively. LA then bolstered the roster by acquiring defenders Cole and Jelle Van Damme, along with midfielder Nigel De Jong for a combined $1.3 million in salary.

To put that number into context, LA's three marquee signings are still earning less than what the Galaxy paid former defender Gonzalez in 2015, per Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times.

Baxter revealed the details on how the club was able to complete all three deals for a paltry amount. Essentially, the players' former clubs terminated their contracts, which allowed the Galaxy to sign the Europeans on reasonable wages.

This is just the latest example of Arena's genius. He parted ways with two stalwarts in Gonzalez and Juninho, then he replaced them with capable European veterans.

Questions will be asked about their durability, especially Cole, who rejected MLS offers for AS Roma because he wasn't "ready to relax on a beach yet" in the summer of 2014.

The English defender claimed that he was repeating what was said to him by an Italian journalist at the time, per Paul Kennedy of Soccer America:

I'm not going to come here and try to defend myself. It was said.

He kind of said it to me. 'We're glad to have you at Roma, we didn't expect you to be here, we thought you'd go relax on the beach.' In the interview, I've said it, yes. It's come out my mouth. But, of course, you have to understand that I was at a new team and I have to kind of tell the fans that at Roma I was here to fight, I was there to influence and play in the Champions League in Europe. Of course, I hold my hands up. It was said. I have to deal with it. I hope I can kind of change the views of me coming here.

Surely Steven Gerrard has told Cole how physically daunting MLS can be, as the former Liverpool captain experienced the same issues last year.

As for De Jong, he can be a solid defensive anchor for the former Liverpool captain. The Dutchman is a strong tackler, reads the game well and is only 31 years old. 

The only worry is De Jong's lack of pace, which explains why he only made five league appearances for an average AC Milan side this season.

However, Arena can compensate for those shortcomings by preventing the Dutchman from roaming forward.

Van Damme is primarily a left back, but he can play as a center back. The Belgian will likely start centrally with Cole occupying the left flank.

Laurent Ciman, an ex-teammate of Van Damme's, joined the Montreal Impact from Standard Liege last year and was named MLS defender of the year a few months later. Perhaps the Galaxy man can follow suit.

The Galaxy also signed a slew of MLS veterans this winter. Jeff Larentowicz provides cover in midfield and defense, while Mike Magee bolsters LA's depth up front.

Dan Kennedy's acquisition from FC Dallas was one of the most crucial additions. The 33-year-old will be the starting goalkeeper and should be a significant upgrade over Donovan Ricketts.

Arena even signed 22-year-old forward Emmanuel Boateng from LA Galaxy II. Los Dos were the USL runners-up, so a few of those players could earn some first-team minutes in 2016.

Based on Arena's resume, it would be tough to critique these moves. However, pursuing players who are over the ages of 30 to replace Gonzalez and Juninho (27) is a curious decision.

Gonzalez was destined to leave because the Galaxy had no flexibility in the salary cap to keep him, per Fox Soccer's Kyle McCarthy. LA had no choice but to sell him.

Juninho's agent was pursuing options in Europe for his client after Gerrard's arrival, per Baxter. Therefore, the midfielder was bound to be sold during the offseason.

After what occurred in 2015, Arena cannot afford to take any risks. Signing older players provides leadership and calmness to the squad in pressure situations. This is especially important at the back.

Arena also brought in these players in time for preseason. They now have a chance to build chemistry and test out potential formations for the upcoming campaign.

If this is Arena's final campaign with LA, he's gunning for glory, which should please Galaxy fans.

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