Gerrard and Galaxy: the road ahead
In this item, LA Times Galaxy beat writer Baxter speculates on Gerrard's future with the club.
I started following Liverpool FC in late 2014 and it was clear that Gerrard was in his swan song season with the club. I had read about his exploits on the team but the player I watched in a handful of games was on the fast downside of his career with occasional flashes of his younger self. The great passing was still pretty much and the almost wound-too-tight intensity was occasionally evident. However, there was longer the speed and endurance that would allow him to grab a match by the scruff of the neck. Nonetheless, he still provided a few highlight reel moments in a difficult 2014-2015 season.
Thus, his move to the MLS would prove interesting to see if the MLS had continued to "catch up" to the rest of the world. Would a declining icon from the EPL run wild in the MLS or would he fit in or would it actually prove challenging?
Indeed, much was made of the physical geography of the MLS travel schedules and stadium locations in the run-up to his arrival and Gerrard got to experience it right away.
Steven Gerrard had been with the Galaxy all of two weeks when he played his first road game in Houston, where the temperature soared to 102 degrees and the humidity was almost as high. A week later Gerrard played 90 minutes against the Colorado Rapids in the thin mile-high air outside Denver. For someone who had never lived anywhere but Liverpool, a port city where the thermometer rarely wanders above 70, it was a rude and painful welcome to Major League Soccer.
I attended two matches to see Gerrard and the Galaxy this season. First, was his MLS debut against San Jose and second was the home finale against Portland. Both games had 5-2 shorelines but in the first, it was in favor of the Galaxy and Gerrard was a solid supporting cast member (1 goal, 1 assist, and drawing a PK that Keane put into the net). Fans who knew of Gerrard's success with Liverpool left happy that night thinking their long time captain was going to hold up the reputation of the Reds in his stint with the MLS perhaps being part of a domestic title run which eluded him in the EPL.
Fast forward to the final home match with Galaxy fans on edge as the club was slumping since late summer barely scoring goals and suffering losses and draws far in excess of wins. In the first half, all look right in the Galaxy universe when they dominated the game but the concern among knowing fans: only 1 goal despite so many opportunities. The second half was a disaster. The field was tilted and Portland was constantly threatening and it was a matter of time before something would happen. The Galaxy were cut to the quick by the Timbers and found themselves down 3-1. The Galaxy regained the initiative and made it 3-2 but shortly after it was 4-2 and fans began to bolt for the parking lots. The final score was 5-2.
Gerrard can't be solely blamed for the team's failure that night and on many other nights during the tailspin of the final third of the season. But one wonders what he thinks now about his MLS adventure?
No one would blame him if he decides to hang it up and leave the $6 million on the table. After all, he really doesn't need the money. Donovan walked away even though he still had some gas left in the tank. Though Gerrard seems to have probably even less left in the tank at 35. But Donovan got the chance to walk off the stage holding yet another MLS Cup trophy overhead.
For Gerrard, the scriptwriters have not been kind. A dreadful howler that contributed to Liverpool coming up short of the EPL title in 2014. And the ending to the 2015 Liverpool season and Gerrard's time with his boyhood club was written as if to shred his dignity with a defeat in his final home game in front of the Anfield faithful. And then the final indignity of a total collapse of Liverpool at Stoke (6-1 defeat, the one goal was scored by none other than Gerrard) to conclude his EPL career.
The Galaxy brain trust will need to make some big decisions for the 2016 season. Will Gerrard be part of those plans? I would think so. Will Gerrard want to be part of those plans? I would think so.
The script writers almost seem to have it in for Gerrard. And, as he did in all his years at LFC, he will take it, he is a footballer and loves the competition come what may.