Sunday morning marked the end of LA Galaxy’s run towards the MLS Cup. After leading 1-0 in the first leg of the semis against the Colorado Rapids, Galaxy ended regulation time with a 1-1 tie that went all the way to penalty kicks. Galaxy missed 3 of their 4 penalty kicks, giving the Colorado Rapids the win, allowing them to advance to the Western Conference Finals. And, as someone pointed out to me recently, that elimination might have been overlooked had it not been for one particular player.
A player that I had love watching play in the MLS and was so sad to see end the 2016 season this way.
Because Giovani Dos Santos not only had a bad game in the second leg against the Rapids, he also sent one of those penalty kicks sailing above the crossbar. He also had no shots on goal that game. His determination was not there. Every ball he was passed was quickly given back to one of his teammates. He didn’t try to turn towards goal. Didn’t attempt to challenge the defense. Like the rest of his team, he lacked luster.
I remember when I first heard about Gio possibly being traded to the Galaxy. Having gone from the prodigy child of the Mexican media back when he was at Barcelona, Europe did not exactly work out for him. He didn’t become Ronaldinho’s successor. He jumped from team to team and country to country. He had a few good games with each squad and his talent was definitely there, but he didn’t have a “Chicharito” moment and he never really gained momentum. So by the time Galaxy came a-knockin’ and with him being at Villareal alongside his brother, to me it felt like the right choice.
If you want to get technical, yes, his time in Europe was a failure. He wasn’t named a leading scorer and he didn’t have any championships to back him up. But he himself is not a bad player. Nor do I think he lacks motivation to live up to his potential. From a club standpoint (excluding his time with LA Galaxy for now), it hasn’t been great. But from an international level, he’s more often than not delivered. He won the U17 World Cup in 2005, he won a Gold Medal in London in 2012, and he’s been a part of three Gold Cup Championships in 2009, 2011 and 2015.
That’s probably why moving to Los Angeles was a good choice. I have lived here my whole life and the amount of Mexico fans here (Mexicans in general) is huge. It was a good market for him (plus, I’m sure the $30 million in transfer fees and wages helped out a bit).
Now, let’s include his time with the LA Galaxy.
Scored his first goal during his first competitive match against Central FC in a CONCACAF Champions League match (okay, you person who is going to say it was an “easy” game, he still scored). I went to that game (pictured included). And the amount of Mexican fans that were there was unlike most Galaxy games I had been to. People went in their new Galaxy jerseys with “Gio” written on the back. Some went in their Mexico jerseys. And you could tell. You could feel the impact that was already beginning. There wasn’t any discussion about his failures in Europe; only happiness that we had a Mexican in Los Angeles we could finally go see play on a consistent basis.
And he didn’t disappoint after that.
He scored again a few days later in his MLS debut against the Seattle Sounders.
He was selected to be on the roster of the MLS All-Star match. He’s nominated for Goal of the Year for the MLS this season (from a decent number of great goals he’s scored). Not too long ago, after the defeat, he went on record to say that was the best season in his career.
And I agree.
He's not a conventional player. Hell, he spent a whole year not playing for El Tri because he supported Piojo. It hasn't been a pretty road but at least he's finally found somewhere he can succeed.
It is a shame that this season with LA Galaxy ended the way it did. Especially considering how well it was going for him. And ending by missing a penalty kick for his team when it mattered most probably made all his skeptics confirm his “failure.”
But he has done well. And even if it is a job well done in a league where Landon Donovan can retire and quickly come back from retirement (MLS-ception, as I call it) within a few years, at least he’s doing his job. He’s scoring goals, gaining confidence and has even made his way back to El Tri after being shunned away for so long.
In fact, I’ll go ahead and add a little side note here: Brian Rowe is clearly not the best goalie for the LA Galaxy and considering the direction in which Ochoa’s career in going in Europe right now with Malaga FC, it would be a nice addition to both Los Angeles and my favorite MLS team if he joined the squad. Just saying.
The MLS season might have not ended for Gio Dos Santos on such a high note, but his legacy is still in tact.
He’s still a great player. And he showed that with the LA Galaxy. Now, let’s see him show it with El Tri on Friday.