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It’s time for the LA Galaxy to bench Steven Gerrard

stevengerrard

The Galaxy have made a habit of signing high profile talent, and when he arrived this summer, Steven Gerrard seemed to fit the pattern. He, like those who came before him, was going to fit in and help the team bring another MLS Cup back to the StubHub Center. But with the playoffs and the presumed run to another trophy set to begin, Gerrard isn’t driving the team forward. Instead, the Liverpool legend is dragging the Galaxy down.

Gerrard’s stay in LA started brilliantly, with a goal and an assist in his first MLS match. His fitness wasn’t great, but that would come along, Bruce Arena assured. He would get more mobile and comfortable with the team. Things would be great. There was no reason to doubt him.

MLS PLAYOFFS, NEUTRAL’S GUIDES: Eastern Conference | Western Conference

There was every reason to trust Arena. The Galaxy haven’t just signed some of the biggest stars to come to MLS. They have also had the most success with those stars. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane all won multiple MLS Cups under Arena, who has shown that no manager can integrate big personalities and talents as well as he can.

Gerrard has bucked the trend, though. He’s not fitting in. He’s not playing a key role in a great team. While Arena promised an improved Gerrard as the season went on, that hasn’t been the case. The Galaxy have struggled in the season’s final month, but their trajectory still looks good compared to that of Gerrard.

The 35-year-old has looked every bit his age. He has been slow and, most terrifyingly, is always attempting to conserve energy. There isn’t an unnecessary run he won’t try to avoid, and there’s no chance to track back he won’t consider skipping. The game always looks like it is passing him by, as he too often becomes a carousel in the middle of the pitch.

Gerrard’s inability to keep up with the match has created a huge hole in the Galaxy team. Not only is he a step slow going forward and far from tidy in the final third — he was played in alone against Sporting Kansas City on Sunday and shot directly at the goalkeeper — but he’s ruined their ability to maintain shape and defend.

SEE MORE: Why each knockout round team will (or won’t) claim MLS Cup.

It’s impossible for a team with a four-man midfield to provide a suitable shield for its defense when one central midfielder is useless at stopping the counterattack or picking up runners into the box. That’s especially true on a team like the Galaxy, which is full of attacking talent who will almost always have both outside midfielders looking to get forward.

The only way for the Galaxy to maintain a coherent defensive shape is with their central midfielders. Juninho is doing his part and then some, but Gerrard is a turnstile. While opposing teams are running at the LA defense, often through the center of the pitch, Gerrard can be found 30 or 40 yards from goal, just watching.

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This isn’t an entirely new Gerrard. Liverpool saw flashes of this last season, his last at Anfield. It’s why he was no longer first choice and partly why he left the club. As age had caught up to him, he was no longer good enough.

Few players in their mid-30’s can handle the rigors and demands of playing in the center of the pitch in the Premier League. But MLS was supposed to be different – not an easy or low level of play, but certainly less demanding than what he was used to in England. Instead, Gerrard has looked worse than he ever did at Liverpool. Even those who were pessimistic about Gerrard’s ability to transition to MLS didn’t expect him to be this bad. No one could have imagined that he’d be so slow and immobile.

SEE MORE: Beckerman, Jones, Borchers highlight WST’s MLS All-Hair Team.

The Galaxy did know that Gerrard wouldn’t be quite like their prior Designated Player signings. After all, he is three years older than Beckham when he signed and when Landon Donovan retired, while Keane was only 31 when he joined LA. There’s a reason the Galaxy only gave Gerrard an 18-month contract when Keane got two-and-a-half years (with an extension that followed) while Beckham signed on for five-and-a-half years. They knew the end was nearer than anyone else they had signed, even if they didn’t think the end was now.

If Gerrard can’t play better than he has, and markedly so, the best thing for LA is for him to watch the postseason from the bench. The Galaxy’s success hasn’t simply been a matter of stars shining bright, but a deep group of role players. That includes the likes of Baggio Husidic and Mika Vayrynen, who are far less sexy and offer significantly less upside than Gerrard, but are capable tacklers and able to do the work in the middle to ensure the defense isn’t exposed.

SEE MORE: MLS knockout round preview capsules.

Benching a superstar is never easy, but right now, Gerrard looks like a crutch. If the regular season exposed that, the postseason will only make it more glaring.

The question is whether the Galaxy really believe Gerrard has reached the end. They have three months of evidence saying so and, with the playoffs set to begin, they’re out of time to hope and wish.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. gezza

    December 27, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    hard to blame him, imagine moving from the best league in the world to mls??

  2. Moses

    November 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    You are all talking bad about Gerrard but you clearly know nothing in football. You all sound like idiots. Gonzalez and gargan are pieces of sh!t. The Galaxy defense has been completely unreliable and are the causes of them playing bad. Gerrard isn’t used in his natural position with the Galaxy. He isn’t the one needing benching it’s the defense

  3. Lester Sump

    October 30, 2015 at 8:49 am

    It’s obvious that you have no clue of what you’re talking about. I watched every one of his Galaxy matches and this couldn’t be farther from the truth….at times he looked like a high school senior playing with 5th graders on the pitch. He is not fast so yes he did not make a few runs like some of the other players but his instinct and knowledge of the game far surpassed that of most of the men on any given night. Go back and watch the highlights from the first round loss to Seattle….there is a moment on Seattle’s second goal where he is tracking a striker on a free kick and stops rightfully so because he knows the Galaxy keeper should be out to meet the shot….Ricketts stayed in and the Sounders got a free one….a few moments later he gets the ball just outside of the box and makes a no look back pass that was amazing and almost led to a tying goal. I’m sure he was frustrated this season as the intellect and skill from the other players is so far behind what he is used to.

  4. tom

    October 29, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Should play the role he did for Liverpool or during in front of the defense playing long passes and making late tackles

  5. OT

    October 29, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    The LA Galaxy looked like MLS Cup favorites 8 weeks ago.

    The team imploded down the stretch. Giving up 5 goals at home to Portland with a 1st round bye at stake was the beginning of the end.

    Awful defending all around for the Galaxy. Defenders were standing around watching the ball instead of marking, plus poor goalkeeping, did them in.

  6. Damn yankee

    October 29, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Where is Penedo when you need him? Omar Gonzales is not what he used to be,Midfield is weak.
    Galaxy went down in last 4-6 weeks,Last week in concachampions we went from 1st.place to 5th at the 90th minute,yesterday match was a total disaster,Is Arena making the right moves?.

  7. Kyle

    October 29, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Gerrard can care less about LA Galaxy. Compared too the club he left do you blame him? Mls is a joke until they change the set up to match the rest of the world it will never be as gd. I went to a Columbus crew vs LA galaxy match this summer before Gerrard and they still looked like crap then.Thats what happends when you buy retirees from the permier leauge 5 years past any prime.

    • Damn yankee

      October 29, 2015 at 10:43 am

      Kyle, What does S.G.years playing for Livepool F.C. and now playing for the L.A.Galaxy has to do with Gerrard on pitch performance?
      What “set up” are you talking about? Are you saying that Gerrard is 5 years past his prime?.
      How do you know Gerrard can care less about L.A.Galaxy? If that is the case you are calling Gerrard,unprofessional,you are questioning his commitment,among other things.

      Cheers!.

  8. Kei

    October 29, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Translation: Gerrard views his time in LA as an extremely well-paying vacation, and that mentality manifested itself in his performances on the pitch.

    Yeah, that’s me shocked.

  9. Britany

    October 29, 2015 at 9:19 am

    Send him back to Liverpool, we’ll take him.

  10. Bishopville Red

    October 29, 2015 at 6:57 am

    Well, he’s benched now!

    BTW: EVERY goal scored in that game was tied to poor to TERRIBLE defending. Sounded exciting, then you actually look and… oh… my… God…

    An ad for exciting sport like the Canadian Football League is for the NFL. Lots of scoring because there are lots of mistakes!

    But, to be fair, some excellent goals in the DC-NE match. And another MLS staple – shocking referee’s decisions.

    SB

  11. Stafford

    October 29, 2015 at 12:40 am

    I said it from the start, the Galaxy should have saved the money. .

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