LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Love them or hate them, the LA Galaxy have always been Major League Soccer’s glamor team with a seemingly never-ending cast of top talent that have long set the standard for the North American league.
Some of the most recognizable faces in the game now reside in MLS – from Kaka and Didier Drogba to Steven Gerrard – and the world-class pipeline can be traced back to the Galaxy and their aggressive courtship of standouts.
David Beckham shifted the balance of star power when he joined Los Angeles in 2007, giving MLS a taste of the notoriety it has been chasing ever since.
The chain reaction of big name players, like Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, has become an annual tradition for the Galaxy and this year’s team is more loaded than ever as Los Angeles seeks to add to their record five MLS Cup titles.
Landing Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong, former England full back Ashley Cole and Belgian international defender Jelle Van Damme during a busy offseason more than helps the cause.
“There were issues that we addressed, one of which was the physicality of the group,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan told the Los Angeles Times this week.
“When we watched teams against us, we always (felt) like we’re getting manhandled. And we never returned the favor.”
The attacking side of the ball should also be in LA’s favor with Keane, former Liverpool midfielder Gerrard and Mexican standout Giovani Dos Santos, the latter two who were added midway through last season.
“We were lucky to be able to bring in these players,” said Galaxy coach and general manager Bruce Arena. “I could write a book on this whole thing and the different issues along the way.”
Thankfully for the Galaxy MLS has accommodated their roster ambitions with a ‘Designated Player’ rule that allows for star players to be paid mostly from outside of the salary cap.
Last year, MLS created a ‘Core Player’ rule, essentially a fourth designated player slot for teams currently using the existing three allowed. The amendment further freed up Los Angeles to pursue talent.
But a stacked roster guarantees little for Los Angeles. Despite entering last season as the defending MLS Cup champions, the Galaxy fizzled after a fast start.
LA have already shown the challenges of bringing together a new group this year after being eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday.
“I didn’t see any superstars on our team tonight,” said Arena, following the loss. “Mentally we’ll be fine. We’ll recover from this performance. (Our stars) should be an advantage for us in the future.”
Editing by Frank Pingue