The decision was clearly a difficult one. Liverpool Football Club were all Steven Gerrard had ever known – from joining the youth system as a teenager to making his debut in November 1998 to driving the club to Champions League glory in Istanbul in 2005 and almost grabbing his first Premier League title in 2014. He started as a fan favourite and became a club legend. But Gerrard was ready for a change of scenery as he entered the final portion of his career – and that opened the door for Los Angeles Galaxy. Now his MLS adventure begins.
Gerrard is joining a Galaxy team accustomed to winning. Los Angeles have won three of the last four MLS Cups, including last season when Bruce Arena’s men lifted the trophy after a 2-1 win over New England Revolution. The bar has been set high.
While the MLS offers Gerrard a handsome pay day and a chance to begin a new chapter, the former Liverpool captain will bring a lot to the MLS, too. His professionalism, his intensity on the training pitch and his ability to control the tempo of the game from midfield make him a “can’t miss” signing for the Galaxy. He will be a role model and mentor for the younger members of the squad as well a fine leader for the club as a whole. And, having played with Robbie Keane at Liverpool, he will quickly be on the same wavelength as the Irish striker.
Gerrard addressed the Galaxy crowd at half-time in his new side's home victory over Toronto FC, earning a raucous reception on US Independence Day. “I can't wait to get my boots on and play in front of you guys”, he said.
The MLS has every reason to feel good about itself this season, as it tries to shed the image of being a league that only attracts big names looking for a comfortable year or two before retirement. Gerrard is one of several talented players who have been lured to North America for the 2015 MLS season and are helping to change that perception.
Italian midfield wizard Andrea Pirlo finalised a deal to join New York City FC, who already have the firepower of Spaniard David Villa. Pirlo bid an emotional farewell to Serie A and has plenty left in the tank, having steered Juventus to the Champions League final last season. His composure and effortless passing will be a joy to watch, and he and Gerrard will be battling it out for the distinction of MLS’ best midfielder.
Frank Lampard will want to be part of that conversation, too. The former Chelsea star is lining up with Pirlo and Villa in the Big Apple, creating a powerhouse “Big Three” that will make New York City FC the most feared side in the league. Lampard was expected to land in the US for the start of the season, but an impressive stint at Manchester City brought a controversial delay. That is all behind him now though and fans across North America are eagerly awaiting the first time that Gerrard and Lampard, England team-mates for so many years, go toe to toe. Fans have been forced to wait for him to make his debut however after he missed a clash against Toronto FC on 12th July.
Speaking of Toronto FC, while the Canadians made their moves months ago, it is worth noting how the club bounced back from the underwhelming Jermain Defoe experiment by signing US international Jozy Altidore and, most excitingly, Italian Sebastian Giovinco, a 5ft 4” creator who, at 28, is entering his prime. Giovinco has wasted little time in establishing himself among the league leaders in goals and assists. And newcomers Orlando City have begun their MLS existence with Kaka pulling the strings as their marquee signing. The Brazilian already has nine goals this season.
As for Gerrard, he is set to make his MLS debut against San Jose Earthquakes on 17th July, further strengthening the MLS’ global appeal. Los Angeles is a long way from Merseyside, but the former Reds captain already looks at home in the midst of Hollywood. Liverpool will always hold a special place in the midfielder’s heart, but the Galaxy are now his sole focus.