[MLS]Last autumn, a month or two after Bruce Arena had replaced Ruud Gullit as Galaxy head coach, a colleague of mine talked about his recent trip to LA and predicted darkly of its fate.
"A lot of the players don't like Bruce," he said, and forecast that by the end of the 2009 season, at the latest, he'd be gone.
I replied, "Well, then, he'll get rid of them. And he only has an 18-month contract, which takes him to the end of 2009 anyway. So that's not out of the question."
This doesn't imply that the players traded, cut or released by Arena since he took over were jettisoned because they didn't like the coach, and the five waived yesterday -- goalkeeper Steve Cronin, defenders Brandon McDonald, Mike Randolph and Troy Roberts, and forward Ely Allen -- were anything more than players who simply didn't fit into his plans. They didn't play much, if at all, in the preseason, and that's a reliable indicator.
Someone has to go so room can be made for the arrival of several veterans: goalie Donovan Ricketts, midfielder Dema Kovalenko, forwards Mike Magee and Jovan Kirovski, and defender Todd Dunivantas the March 2 roster and salary-cap compliance date draws near. Arena gave Venezuelan defender Leo Bautista a long look, but cut him loose a week ago in a previous wave of departures.
All this boosts the stock of rookies Omar Gonzalez and A.J. Delagarza, and veteran Tony Sanneh as candidates for back-line duty. With Landon Donovan's return in two weeks looking more likely by the hour, what the Galaxy will look like when the regular season begins is becoming clearer.
Of the five, Roberts had the longest tenure and the most experience, playing 61 games in four seasons after being drafted out of Cal in 2005. He played in nine of the 10 games following Arena's hiring and a career high 17 in 2008. Cronin also came to LA in 2005 and earned the starter's job for the 2008 season, but his 2.05 goals-allowed average and inconsistent handling in 22 games labeled him a probable departure even before a broken hand forced him to miss the last two months of the season.
Randolph came to LA from USL-1 Portland in September, 2006, and played 39 games at left mid and left back. Allen and McDonald were selected in the 2008 SuperDraft and played a combined 28 games while battling various injuries.
Cronin has already reported to Portland; no word yet on whether Randolph is headed there, too. Might Roberts join his brother Jamil in San Jose?
The cuts leave the Galaxy with 27 players, three above the MLS limit of 24. Gonzalez and DeLaGarza aside, Arena has replaced youngsters with veterans, so as to win now and leave the future for later.