Zlatan Ibrahimovic's first season with the LA Galaxy couldn't have started much better, but it couldn't have ended much worse.
The Galaxy's failure to reach the 2018 MLS playoffs was a big letdown, and as soon as it happened, it was clear an offseason shakeup was on the cards. Enter Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who left his post at Boca Juniors to return to MLS and take over a Galaxy side that has the ingredients for a dramatic turnaround if Schelotto can sort out defensive issues and develop the impressive young talent on the squad.
It is difficult to accurately assess how the Galaxy will fair in 2019 because the team's makeover is still very much in progress. Ola Kamara's sudden move to China means one less attacking weapon for the Galaxy, though he was never quite a comfortable fit playing alongside Ibrahimovic.
Ibrahimovic will grab the headlines once again in 2019, but the team's youth movement will be an intriguing subplot to follow, especially the development of Mexican midfielders Efrain Alvarez and Uriel Antuna. Alvarez is just 16 years old, but is a special talent who could wind up taking on a major role this season, especially given the team's emphasis on wanting to produce more from its academy system.
The Galaxy are likely to add another few players, with central defense and forward still areas where reinforcements are needed, but as things stand, the Galaxy have the look of a team capable of not only returning to the playoffs, but making a run in the wide-open Western Conference.
How did the LA Galaxy perform in 2018?
2018 finish: 7th place in the Western Conference (13-12-9), missed the playoffs.
The Galaxy fell just one point short of making the playoffs, suffering a demoralizing 3-2 home loss on the final day of the regular season, in a match they were leading 2-0.
The Galaxy ultimately paid the price for an 0-4-3 slide in August and September that loosed their once-firm grip on a playoff spot. The Galaxy's defense was the real weak spot, allowing the fifth-most goals in MLS. The Galaxy also failed to make StubHub Center a fortress, managing a mediocre eight wins at home.
LA Galaxy's key offseason losses
Cole's departure was expected, but Ola Kamara's sudden move to China was not as easily anticipated. The Norwegian striker has secured a seven-figure move to Chinese side Shenzhen Football Club, ending an uncomfortable stint with the Galaxy that was complicated by Zlatan Ibrahimovic's arrival.
The Galaxy's defensive makeover saw them part ways with Michael Ciani and Emrah Klimenta, neither of which panned out as good signings. Veteran midfielder Baggio Husidic also saw his time in Los Angeles come to an end.
LA Galaxy's key offseason additions
Guiillermo Barros Schelotto was the most significant addition of the winter, arriving from Boca Juniors after helping lead the Argentinian powerhouse to the Copa Libertadores final. The former MLS Cup winner and MLS MVP will be called on to sharpen up the attacking structure, but more importantly, address the defensive shortcomings.
Leading the charge to improve the defense is Diego Polenta. The Uruguayan central defender joins from Nacional with experience and a good pedigree, but his arrival shouldn't stop the Galaxy from shopping for another central defender to partner with him.
Mexican midfielder Uriel Antuna is a reclamation project who joins the Galaxy without a ton of fanfare, but who could be a surprise breakout player. The one-time Manchester City signing could thrive in Schelotto's system, and stands a good chance of taking on a bigger role.
Veteran goalkeeper Matt Lampson gives the Galaxy some depth behind David Bingham.
Full LA Galaxy roster entering 2019 season
Goalkeepers: David Bingham, Matt Lampson, Justin Vom Steeg
Defenders: Hugo Arellano, Rolf Feltscher, Tomas Hilliard-Arce, Diego Polenta, Dave Romney, Jorgen Skjelvik, Daniel Steres
Midfielders: Romain Alessandrini, Efrain Alvarez, Uriel Antuna, Emmanuel Boateng, Servando Carrasco, Emil Cuello, Jonathan dos Santos, Juninho, Perry Kitchen, Sebastian Lletget, Joao Pedro
Forwards: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bradford Jamieson IV, Chris Pontius
LA Galaxy's projected starting lineup
The Galaxy attack could be one of the best in MLS if Sebastian Lletget can stay healthy. Ema Boateng provides some depth on the wings, as will young Mexican winger Uriel Antuna.
What will be interesting to see is how the Galaxy handle playmaker duties as Giovani Dos Santos leaves. Since the Mexican star wound up being the player sacrificed to cut down to three designated players, Antuna could slide into the starting lineup. Teenage midfielder Efrain Alvarez is another player who could enjoy a breakout in 2019 if Giovani departs.
Juninho is back with the Galaxy after stints with Club Tijuana and the Chicago Fire. The Brazilian midfielder was part of three MLS Cup titles with the Galaxy during his six seasons and should anchor the Galaxy's midfield, allowing Jonathan Dos Santos to play in a more advanced midfield role.
The defense should be improved with Diego Polenta in central defense, but Jorgen Skjelvik will be one to watch as he looks to make a full-time move to left back.
LA Galaxy's national TV coverage
- LA Galaxy vs. Chicago Fire - Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1
- FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy - Saturday, March 9, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision
- LA Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers - Sunday, March 31, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo - Friday, April 19, at 10:30 p.m. ET on UniMas
- New York Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy - Saturday, May 4, at 2 pm. ET on ESPN
- LA Galaxy vs. New York City FC - Saturday, May 11, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Orlando City vs. LA Galaxy - Friday, May 24, at 7 p.m. ET on UniMas
- LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes - Friday, July 12, at 11 p.m. ET on UniMas
- LA Galaxy vs. Los Angeles FC - Friday, July 19, at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN
- Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy - Saturday, July 27, at 10:30 p.m. ET on FS1
- Atlanta United vs. LA Galaxy - Saturday, August 3, at 5 p.m. ET on FOX
- D.C. United vs. LA Galaxy - Sunday, August 11, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1
- LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders - Saturday, August 17, at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2
- Los Angeles FC vs. LA Galaxy - Sunday, August 25, at 10 p.m. ET on FS1
- Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy - Sunday, September 1, at 6 p.m. ET on FS1