2018 Key Transfers: LA Galaxy

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the main ins and outs for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at LA Galaxy  and their key signings ahead of their MLS campaign in 2018…

LA Galaxy endured a season to forget in 2017. They finished bottom of the Western Conference and had very little to shout about. They won the least amount of games across MLS and they need to improve both offensively and defensively so they can push themselves back to familiar territory in the coming season. The Galaxy faithful have seen plenty of business during the window with some key faces coming in and departing.

Key Signings

Perry Kitchen: Solidity in defensive positions has been a must for Galaxy in the offseason and this is a signal of their intent. Perry Kitchen spent five good seasons with DC and had been a key member of the squad, starting 155 of his 158 games. He has returned to MLS following a spell in Europe. His experience and versatility is what Galaxy need and they will be hoping he can make an impact for them from the off.

David Bingham: Bingham is expected to be the new number one. LA Galaxy have decided to opt for the former Quakes ‘keeper as their new last line of defence. With three goalkeepers departing, including Brian Rowe, Bingham will be making his 100th MLS appearance in gameweek four providing he is the first choice. With that in mind he has plenty of experience and at 28 he has plenty of years ahead of him, so this looks a good signing.

Chris Pontius: Signed as a free agent after being released from Philadelphia, Chris Pontius looks to be a very good pickup for the Galaxy. An MLS veteran, Pontius is heading into his tenth campaign, having scored 45 goals in 215 games. He can be deployed in an attacking midfield role or as a forward, so he gives LA Galaxy options.

Ola Kamara: Galaxy needed to improve from front to back and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Off the back of two very impressive seasons, Ola Kamara has been picked up after scoring 34 goals in 59 games for Columbus Crew. There is going to be a lot of expectation on his shoulders with stats like that. Galaxy are also being linked with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Javier Hernandez, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more attacking signings come in to support Kamara before the start of the season.

Notable Departures

Robbie Rogers: The 30-year-old defender has called time on his playing days, Robbie Rogers made 184 appearances over a 10 year MLS career. His ability to be utilised on both the right and left of the field means he is going to be an option the Galaxy will miss.

Jermaine Jones: LA Galaxy have decided to allow the experienced 36-year-old midfielder to move on. 2017 was the most appearances he’s made in one season since his move over to MLS from European football. Now may be a good time for both the player and club to seek new adventures with Galaxy needing to freshen up a side that underdelivered in 2017.

Gyasi Zardes: The last two seasons haven’t been too enjoyable for Gyasi Zardes, through injury in 2016 and Galaxy’s worst ever campaign last time out. Making 131 appearances and scoring 34 goals over five years at the club, he’s one the Galaxy fans will miss. A fresh start for him at Columbus is now in store, which he will be looking forward to.

Brian Rowe: The Galaxy have parted ways with Brian Rowe after six years. He made 45 appearances over the course of the last two seasons, although he isn’t being tipped as a number one choice for his new club Vancouver.

Jose Villarreal: LA Galaxy have decided to allow their second-ever homegrown signing to move on. At just 24, Jose Villarreal has 68 MLS appearances to his name, all with LA. There is more expected from him with plenty of time to continue to improve. A squad player who has the ability to make an impact and someone that will certainly need replacing if Galaxy want to keep good depth to their numbers.

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2018 Key Transfers: Columbus Crew

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the key additions and losses for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Columbus Crew’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in the 2018 MLS season…

Columbus Crew are heading into the 2018 season with plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the club. Relocation concerns are still hanging over the franchise and key players have moved on to rival teams. Gregg Berhalter is preparing for his fifth-straight season as the Crew head coach but he knows the team needs some more firepower if they are to make the playoffs once again. They finished fifth last term after a strong end to the season and beat Atlanta and New York City FC in the playoffs. However, they couldn’t get past Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Championship game. They ended the season on a high, on the field, and need to try and hit the ground running with a new-look team this time around…

Key Signings

Mike Grella: Grella has proven himself as a dangerous playmaker in MLS since joining the Red Bulls ahead of the 2015 season. He scored 16 goals and added 13 assists in his first two seasons with the Red Bulls but was ruled out for the season back in June last year. He was picked up by Colorado in the re-entry draft but instantly traded to Columbus in return for a second-round draft pick in 2019. The Crew will hope he can stay injury-free and settle quickly into a new-look Columbus attack.

Gyasi Zardes: Alongside Grella will be fellow new arrival Gyasi Zardes, who has been sent to Columbus from the Galaxy following a big trade for Ola Kamara. Zardes had been with his hometown club for five-straight years, but saw his involvement drop off massively over the past two seasons as a result of injury troubles and poor form. He needs to play more games, and should get that opportunity with the Black and Gold. He also needs to play in his natural attacking position, after being deployed at right-back during the latter stages of his time with the Galaxy. He has the potential to be a hit, but it’s a major ask for him to replace Kamara’s goals.

Milton Valenzuela: This is a player to look out for in 2018. The 19-year-old left-back has joined the Crew as a Designated Player on loan from Newell’s Old Boys with the option to buy. Valenzuela will be classed a Young Designated Player this season and is expected to be a regular starter at left-back, replacing the departed Jukka Raitala and Waylon Francis. He is an attacking full-back, who should suit Gregg Berhalter’s attacking style of play perfectly. Expect him to impress.

Notable Departures

Waylon Francis: The loss of Francis means Columbus are left thin at left-back. Raitala also left and although Valenzuela has arrived, the absence of Francis in the dressing room could be a blow after spending the past four seasons with the club. He has joined the Seattle Sounders, where he will hope to see more game time after two consecutive years of struggling to nail down a regular starting berth with the Crew.

Ola Kamara: Kamara’s exit had looked on the cards for some time and it was made official following the 2018 MLS SuperDraft as LA Galaxy sent Zardes and $400,000 in allocation money the Crew’s way. Kamara scored 34 goals in 59 appearances for Columbus over two seasons and his absence will more than likely be felt. Particularly if Zardes fails to hit the ground running.

Kekuta Manneh: Manneh was expected to be a hit in Columbus after joining from the Whitecaps last year but he managed just four goals and three assists in 19 games. He was offered a contract to remain with the Crew for the 2018 season but has decided to make the move the Liga MX instead with Pachuca. His loss adds to depth problems in attack as things stand, with Kamara and Meram’s departures leaving Columbus short of options in attack.

Justin Meram: Columbus made it clear they wouldn’t let Meram leave the club unless they received a significant offer this winter. That was even after the winger had made it clear he was looking for a move, as a result of relocation concerns and because he was looking for a new challenge. Everyone ended up happy. Meram got a new challenge and Columbus received a significant offer as Orlando City sent $1.05 million in allocation money as well as an international roster spot. Meram’s loss will no doubt be felt, both on the field and off it. He was a fan favourite after being drafted in 2011, going on to score 37 goals in 188 games.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs DC United

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew SC vs. DC United

Venue: Mapfre Stadium – Saturday, July 16 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST) 

Match Odds: Columbus 5/6 – Draw 5/2 – DC United 16/5

Match Preview

Columbus Crew welcome Eastern Conference rivals DC United to Mapfre Stadium on Saturday night in a tie both sides desperately need to win.

The Crew are in a rough patch of form. They drew their last game 1-1 at home to Toronto on Wednesday and are now winless in six attempts. They have fallen to the bottom of the East and have the worst points tally in Major League Soccer.

Gregg Berhalter’s side trail the top six by five points, they have to start winning games again if they are to close that gap. This is the first of back-to-back home games, so they now have an opportunity to pick themselves up and regain some confidence but it will not be easy, as they have a lot to improve on.

It is a worrying time for the Crew fans who have watched their team fall a long way since December’s MLS Cup Final.

Seattle Sounders vs Columbus Crew

DC United are not in a much better run of form themselves heading into this tie. They were on the receiving end of a 3-0 defeat to Philadelphia last time out and are underperforming.

The pressure isn’t as intense on Ben Olsen as his side trail the top six by just a point, but he will be aware that a loss here would leave DC just one point ahead of Columbus. It is incredibly tight in the East.

DC are winless in two and have just one win in their last five. They have found wins hard to come by in Columbus, the last time they managed to take all three points in this fixture was back in 2007.

United have lost five of the last eight meetings between the sides since 2013. They will feel they have a good chance of picking up a win here but will be hard pushed to do so as, despite their form, Columbus are unbeaten in their last seven home ties.

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Team News

Columbus Crew could be without four players for this tie as Matt Pacifici, Gaston Sauro are Federico Higuain all expected to miss out, while Conor Casey is a doubt.

DC United injury list is up to five players now as Chris Korb, Collin Martin and Chris Rolfe are all expected to miss out. Patrick Nyarko and Miguel Aguilar are both doubts. Kofi Opare is suspended for this tie.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s last five: D/D/L/L/D

DC United’s last five: L/D/W/D/L

Key Stat: Homesick – DC United have failed to win 14 of their last 15 away matches in Major League Soccer.

Key Player: Ola Kamara – The Columbus forward has been one of the brightest points of what has been a tough season so far. He has netted eight goals in his 12 appearances. The Crew faithful will be willing their man to fire them to victory in this tie.

Ola Kamara Columbus Crew

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 2-2 DC United – The Eastern Conference sides to play out a score draw. Neither are in particularly good form heading into this tie and are both lacking confidence. A draw will not be a helpful result for either side but it looks set to end that way with so little to choose between the two.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Toronto FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew SC vs. Toronto FC

Venue: Mapfre Stadium – Wednesday, July 13 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST) 

Match Odds: Columbus 19/20 – Draw 5/2 – Toronto 14/5

Match Preview

Columbus Crew welcome Trillium Cup rivals Toronto FC to Mapfre Stadium on Wednesday evening for a key midweek Eastern Conference battle.

The Crew come into the game in terrible form. They sit ninth in the East, six points off the playoffs and need to pick up over their final 17 games to have a chance of making the playoffs.

They enter Wednesday’s match off the back of Saturday’s 3-1 loss to New England and have now gone five games without a win, losing three of them.

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Gregg Berhalter knows his side stand a better chance of earning victory at home, with the Crew currently unbeaten in six in front of their own fans. But he is under pressure to get his side on song and failure to win on Wednesday would leave Columbus with an ever-bigger mountain to climb.

Toronto are in a better position than the Crew to push on and challenge at the top end of the Eastern Conference, but need to make improvements themselves too.

Their 1-0 win against Chicago on Saturday was their first in three and helped them up to fifth place but they must work on being more consistent.

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The Reds have only won back-to-back games on one occasion this season and that came back in April so Greg Vanney’s men must pick up wins on a more regular basis if they are to guarantee a better end to the term than last year’s sixth-placed finish.

This is the ninth season that these two rivals have battled for the Trillium Cup series. The Crew hold the advantage, having won the series in six of the past eight seasons, and are currently on a four-game unbeaten run against the Reds.

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Team News

Columbus will remain without Matt Pacifici, Gaston Sauro and Federico Higuain, while Connor Casey and Cedrick Mabwati are both still doubts. Tyson Wahl will return to the squad after serving his one-game suspension on Saturday and may come in for Chad Barson at the back.

Toronto FC still have six injury worries heading into Wednesday’s match. Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Daniel Lovitz, Ashtone Morgan, Clint Irwin and Will Johnson all remain sidelined. Jordan Hamilton is likely to lineup alongside Sebastian Giovinco once again in attack.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s last five: L/D/D/L/L

Toronto’s last five: L/W/L/D/W

Key Stat: Columbus are unbeaten in their last seven home matches in MLS (W3 D4).

Key Player: Ola Kamara – The Crew forward has adapted well to life in Columbus this season, scoring eight goals in just seven starts. He has four in his last three and is always a threat, regardless of how well his teammates play. The Crew have not lost at home when he has played this season and he’ll want that record to continue after Wednesday’s game.

Ola Kamara Columbus Crew

Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 1-1 Toronto FC – A close-fought battle is expected on Wednesday between these Eastern Conference rivals. Toronto are the team in better form but they have struggled against Columbus in recent times, and the hosts are a more solid outfit at home than on the road. They drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture back in May and another draw could be on the cards here.

2016 MLS Season Preview: Columbus Crew

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Columbus Crew will be looking to achieve over the next nine months.

Columbus Crew enjoyed a good 2015 season last time out, with the highlight being the trip to the MLS Cup Final, where they unfortunately lost 2-1 to the Portland Timbers in a game that was almost out of their reach within the first ten minutes. Besides the obvious disappointment of how the year ended, they can be proud of their progress after knocking out favourites New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Final. There was cause for concern after their slow start in which they only won one of the first five games, but they turned things around and finished second in the Eastern Conference. Crew fans will be looking forward to the new season, with much more expected of this dynamic, attacking squad. The aim will be to go one better than last year.

Last regular season finish:

Eastern Conference – Position: 2nd – P34 – W15 – D8 – L11

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What needs to change this year?

As mentioned above, they need to start better this term. One win from their first five caused concern amongst fans and a similar start wouldn’t provide the required platform to push on from. However, the main concern to be addressed will be the team’s defensive record. The Crew may have finished second in the Eastern Conference, but they conceded the fourth-highest number of regular season goals in MLS. They must shore up at the back this term as they will look to better their record of six clean-sheets.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Corey Ashe – Defender – Emil Larsen – Midfielder – Conor Casey – Forward – Amro Tarek – Defender – Rodrigo Saravia – Midfielder – Ola Kamara – Forward

OutsEmanuel Pogatetz – Defender – Kristinn Steindorsson – Midfielder – Ben Speas – Midfielder – Matt Lampson – Goalkeeper – Kevan George – Midfielder – Aaron Schoenfeld – Forward – Chris Klute – Defender – Jack McInerney – Forward – Sergio Campbell  Defender – Romain Gall – Midfielder

Key Player:

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Kei Kamara – Forward – Kei Kamara was outstanding in 2015, providing some hugely important goals as he matched Golden Boot winner, Sebastian Giovinco’s tally of 22 goals over the course of the regular season. Despite some concerns, he is staying on with the Crew this season and will be a mainstay in the first team once more, should he keep himself fit. His aim will be to better last year’s excellent goal return.

One to Watch:

Ola Kamara – Forward – Columbus now have two Kamara’s in attack. Ola Kamara is a newly-acquired signing from Austria Wien, who has played international football for Norway. He can play as a winger or as an out-and-out striker and will provide cover for the front three this season in Ethan Finlay, Justin Meram and Kei Kamara. He will look to nail down a starting berth and could prove to be a dangerous outlet if given the sufficient minutes by Gregg Berhalter.

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Predicted Finish:

Eastern Conference – 1st – The Crew ended 2015 as one of the most dangerous sides in MLS and will look to challenge at the very top of the Eastern Conference once again this term. There have not been many changes to their starting lineup and that probably puts them in the best position to push on in 2016 and go one better than their second-placed finish last year. Expect others like New York Red Bulls, DC United and Toronto FC to challenge for top spot, but over the course of the season we see Columbus leading the pack, with an immediate return to the MLS Cup Final a real possibility.

What are you expecting from Columbus Crew in 2016?