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Steven Gerrard Move to MLS Is Good for League, Bad for LA Galaxy

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 05 Jan 2015

Steven Gerrard looks sets to join Major League Soccer, with his most likely destination appearing to be the LA Galaxy.After announcing that he would be leaving Liverpool at the end of the current season, Gerrard confirmed that he would be coming to play in America, and ESPN's Jeff Carlisle has reported that he will be joining the Galaxy on an 18-month contract worth $6 million per year.While the signing will be good for MLS overall, it looks to be a bad decision on the Galaxy's part for a number of reasons.Having won the MLS Cup in three of the last four seasons, the Galaxy will enter the 2015 season with a Landon Donovan-sized hole in their rosterone they seem to be intent on filling with Gerrard.The problem lies in the fact that Gerrard is not a like-for-like replacement for Donovan, who normally occupied a wide-midfield role for the Galaxy. Gerrard, who made his bones as an attacking midfielder for Liverpool, has become a holding midfielder in the twilight of his career.But the Galaxy already have an established center-midfield combination: Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho (assuming both stay healthy).That means Galaxy coach Bruce Arena will be forced to either push one of the three into a wide position or rotate the three playersneither is an ideal situation.Gerrard has already indicated that one of the reasons he is leaving Liverpool is his desire to be a starter game in and game out, something that might not happen at the Galaxy.Arena could try and go with a 4-5-1, but neither of his current midfield options is an ideal No. 10. And a five-man midfield would also disrupt the forward pairing of Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardesone that showed tremendous potential in 2014.Gerrard will also be turning 35 years old before joining the Galaxyan age at which many players begin to rapidly decline. And as the saying goes, Father Time is undefeated.The cost of Gerrard's contract, as well as his high-profile status, would also likely give Arena problems. By the time of Gerrard's summer arrivalno small problem on its ownthe Galaxy will already be in midway through the season.At that point, Arena will be forced to make the impossible decision to either use Gerrard as a substitute (not ideal considering his salary and status) or push Gerrard into the starting XI and disrupt the chemistry that should be well established by July.For years, Major League Soccer has sought to raise its international profile by signing prominent players. But in many cases, it hasn't worked out well. The David Beckham experiment, which did eventually lead the Galaxy to two MLS Cups, struggled in its early years as the Galaxy failed to make the playoffs in Beckham's first two seasons. Beckham then spent his offseasons on loan at AC Milan and was even booed by LA fans upon his return.The New York Red Bulls have also seen the bitter side of recruiting high-profile internationals with the failed signings of Rafa Marquez, Juninho (the former Lyon player, not to be confused with the Galaxy's Juninho) and, most recently, Tim Cahill.With Juninho and Cahill in particular, Red Bulls coach Mike Petke awkwardly tried to shoehorn both into his lineup before realizing neither fit. Juninho left the club without finishing a single season and Cahill ended his 2014 MLS season as a $3.5 million-per-year substitute.Gerrard will also be settling into a new club, new city and a new country for the first time in his professional career. Both Gerrard and his wife are natives of Liverpool and have never been forced to acclimatize to a new environment or new club before.For the league in general, the signing seems to be a good bit of business. Gerrard is a widely popular player and, with his arrival, jersey and ticket sales will likely flourish.But for the Galaxy, at $6 million per year, it seems like an awfully big gambleone that's based far more on publicity than concerns on the field.Follow me on Twitter @JohnDHalloranFollow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AmericanTouchline
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