In this post-Boxing Day edition of the Los Angeles Galaxy Ins and Outs, the View from Avalon continues its evaluations of the players that made up the 2012 Galaxy first team. First, we start with Edson Buddle, who is now a member of the Colorado Rapids after a mediocre comeback year. Buddle competed in 28 first-team games for Bruce Arena’s Galaxy, including five MLS Cup Playoff matches and all four CONCACAF Champions League games.
Buddle also played in three MLS Reserve League matches. However, he was restricted to just three goals and assist in all the matches he played. While Buddle’s hold-up play was decent, his injuries prevented him from making an impact like he did in 2010.
Player Rating for Edson Buddle: 3.5/10
“I know once I’m healthy, I should be able to score goals if I just condition myself the right way and just do the little things that I’ve done in my past,” Buddle said to LAGalaxy.com’s Adam Serrano. A change of scenery might change Edson Buddle fortunes around but for the time being, he is deservedly seen as nothing more than a liability to the club’s fortunes next year.
Next up is Michael Stephens, who has been the main man for garbage time minutes. Used primarily to preserve advantages or add a little spark, Stephens has played in 33 first-team matches, including five CCL games, four MLS Cup Playoff matches and the U.S. Open Cup match against the Carolina Railhawks.
In those contests, Stephens scored two goals, both in the CCL matches, and two assists. He also played in nine MLS Reserve League contests, scoring a goal and two assists.
“I think I was better than last year,” Stephens told Serrano. “Last year, I played a lot more, but this year when I was out there, I was a lot more confident and did a better job in the limited opportunities that I had. Going from this year to next, I’m a lot more confident heading into the next season.”
Player Rating for Michael Stephens: 6/10
Not great but not bad work from Stephens this season. However, with the absence of David Beckham (who we will touch on in a bit) and possibly Juninho as well, Stephens will be counted on to produce more chances and goals for the club next year.
Now we move on to a player that already left his mark on the league and the Galaxy indelibly: David Beckham himself. Beckham played in 33 first-team matches, including three CONCACAF Champions League matches and all the MLS Cup Playoff games, scoring eight goals and 10 assists. This is a player with years of experience playing the beautiful game, and who has had his share of highs and lows this season.
Beckham’s best performance came on July 14 against the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field, scoring two solid goals and an assist. The goal of year from Becks came in the 19th minute, with a 35-yard strike that perhaps impressed the likes of Timber Joey at the New Fortress. Nagging ankle injuries hindered Beckham this season, and one of his worse performance came against the New England Revolution, when he was forced to be subbed out at halftime in their 3-1 defeat.
“I think I’ve matured even more so as a player. I think as you get older and you play more years in this game, your mind gets a bit quicker to be honest,” Beckham told Serrano.“The legs might be a little bit slower than they were when I was 21 years old, but I’ve always said it, I’ve never been a quick player, speed and pace has never been an issue for me in my game.
“But I think with your mind, you become more clever. You look at players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes and they’re playing in a top league at their age and they adjust to it. I think you tend to do that over the years when you become older.”
Player Rating for David Beckham: 8.5/10
For all the shortcomings he had guiding the Los Angeles Galaxy, David Beckham has done well in raising the profile of his team and Major League Soccer culminating in another MLS Cup. A mentor to the young players, Beckham will look to open a new chapter in his work in developing the game here in the United States.
Now we come to the captain, Landon Donovan. Here is a player that has done so much for the Galaxy that a statue might as well be erected, this of a five-time MLS Cup Champion. Donovan played in 34 first-team matches incluyding five MLS Cup Playoff games and three CCL matches, scoring 12 goals and 17 assists to earn MLS First XI honors. Donovan also had a cameo in an MLS Reserve League match, tallying a goal and assist apiece.
The high point in Donovan’s year came at a turning point in the Galaxy’s season, when Los Angeles upset Real Salt Lake 3-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium thanks to a brace from the No. 10. Donovan scored a go-ahead goal in the 2012 MLS Cup Final over the Houston Dynamo to secure the club’s fourth league title. Fatigue has done a number on Donovan, and some time off from the game may help him return to the team in the future. Whether or not this happens is anyone’s guess.
“Last year there was a heavy expectation with the uncertainty about David [Beckham]‘s future and we hadn’t won a championship,” Donovan told Serrano. “From the beginning MLS Cup was in LA so there was a lot of pressure to get there. This year we could enjoy it a little bit more. To finish where we were and then unexpectedly move through the playoffs that way, was a little more satisfying I think.”
Player rating for Landon Donovan: 9/10
Landon Donovan will go down in history as one of the great Galaxy player to don the captain’s armband from his team. A team leader, a penalty kick specialist, and a true motivator to his peers, Donovan will be missed next year, but the door will always be open to him returning to the club, perhaps for a true curtain call. For now, Landon Donovan’s career playing the game makes him one of the finest footballers the United States has to offer.
Finally, we have another update from the Galaxy Academy. Forward Paul Arriola of the Under-18s is training with Club Tijuana, the defending champions of Liga MX. From one championship club to another, it seems. “[Tijuana are] practically my home team considering I live 10 minutes away from the border, so that helps,” Arriola told MLSsoccer.com’s Tom Marshall. “I’ve been down there previously to train with the Under-20s on a trial and I really enjoyed the club, the coaches and the play.”