'I'm very happy here': Raheem Edwards relishing new role, stability with LA Galaxy
LOS ANGELES – After years of bouncing around MLS, Raheem Edwards has finally found himself a home with the LA Galaxy.
Signed at the beginning of 2022 as a free agent, Edwards has slotted seamlessly into the Galaxy’s lineup this season, racking up an impressive 27 appearances already this year, for a total of 2099 minutes.
For someone who had never even cleared the 2000-minute mark in any of his seven previous seasons as a professional, that’s been a huge jump for him, yet it shows the faith that the Galaxy put into Edwards, who is signed to the club through 2024.
Fully back in the CanMNT fold after not earning a call for four years, among the best at his left back position in MLS, things are looking quite nice here for the 27-year-old, who is just looking to keep the good times rolling for the rest of the season, potentially turning that into a trip to the World Cup if all goes to plan.
“Yeah, it's been going good,” Edwards told OneSoccer last week. “I started out really strong, had a couple of assists, and that led to the National Team call, so I just want to keep that going.”
“I want to keep my foot on the gas pedal, try to improve as much as I can and then continue my form throughout the rest of the MLS season, so I can give myself a shot at Qatar with the boys, and to do that, I just gotta keep doing what I'm doing.”
Okay Raheem Edwards, I see you 👀— Alexandre Gangué-Ruzic (@AlexGangueRuzic) March 6, 2022
The Canadian LB has continued his strong start to the year for the #LaGalaxy, picking up his 2nd assist in 2 games (both on game winners), helping the Galaxy to a 2W-0L-0D start
Creeping onto the #CanMNT radar…pic.twitter.com/B2luTGyqzp
Yet, for as good as things look now for Edwards, who has arguably been one of the signings of the season in MLS, his situation was a bit bleaker just months ago.
After a season across town with LAFC, where despite playing 28 games for the club in 2021, he was not re-signed, leaving him to make a big decision as he entered MLS Free Agency.
For the first time in his career, he had a chance to pick where he could play, which after bouncing between Toronto, Montréal, Chicago, Minnesota and LAFC since 2018, was a nice option for him to finally have.
At the same time, after being either traded or drafted as many times as he did, having played on four teams in his last four seasons, stability had to be top of mind for him, meaning that he had to pick the right club as the options poured in.
Interestingly enough, that originally seemed destined to be with his first-ever team, Toronto FC, with whom he won the treble back in 2017, but then, some familiar faces from the LA Galaxy came calling, and from there, the rest was history, leaving him to stick around in California, albeit in different colours.
“Yeah, that came up when I was officially a free agent, the (Galaxy) acted pretty quickly,” Edwards said of his decision to sign with the Galaxy. “It was a pretty easy-going conversation, because as many might know, before I had played for (now LA Galaxy and former TFC head coach), Greg Vanney with TFC, as well as (Galaxy assistant) Jason Bent, who was my first professional coach at TFC II.”
“Because of that, it was pretty easy to just transition over here with these guys, they are where I got my footballing ideas from, with this coaching staff, so for me, it was a no-brainer, really.”
“Honestly, I thought I was gonna go back home to Toronto, that was my first choice, but on day one, the Galaxy persuaded me, so here I am now in LA, still, and I can't be mad at that, the weather is good here and so is the food.”
But for as much of a no-brainer of a signing as this was for Edwards, there was still one last thing to hammer out before he became a Galaxy regular- the position that he’d play for the club.
There, a lot of uncertainty surrounded him, as while he is most well-known for being a winger, he’d become a bit of a Swiss Army Knife in his post-TFC stints, racking up appearances at eight different positions over the past four years, ranging from left back to striker and everything else between.
Because of that, thwt was something that came up when signing with the Galaxy, as if there’s one thing they had a lot of, it was wingers.
What they lacked, however, was full backs, specifically, a left back, something that Vanney was well-aware of, as he quickly came to Edwards with a proposition in his talks - instead of another year of being a Swiss Army Knife, how would Edwards like to become a full time left back?
And having seen what Vanney was able to do with now-CanMNT regular, Richie Laryea, back at TFC, who went from nearly out of MLS to arguably the best at his position in the league, all thanks to a shift to right back from midfield under Vanney’s tutelage, Edwards had no hesitations in taking up Vanney on his offer to do something similar.
“No, it was prior to the beginning of the season, actually,” Edwards said of his shift to left back. “They mentioned Richie Laryea to me, as I’d seen what they did with Richie, he was a #8 before, and then after he went to TFC he became one of the best right backs in MLS. So Greg said that he saw a similar journey for me as a left back, because as everyone knows, I’ve been a bit of a Swiss army knife, I’ve played a lot of positions, but he said I could be a lot better as a player if I mastered one position or tried to hone my craft in one position.”
“And for me, he said that could be left back, and I agreed with him. I think at this stage in my career now, I'm not the greatest attacking player, I'm not a terrible one, but I'm not the player that's gonna get you 10 goals or anything like that, maybe I’ll give you 10 assists, but I'm not gonna get you goals. So being an attacking left back is a perfect position, and it was a no-brainer move for me.”
Raheem Edwards just has this thing to him where the ball stays at his feet and he keeps moving the ball forward. Definitely a player in All-Star consideration at the left back position. #LAGalaxy pic.twitter.com/Z9nvtWUSC3— Alex Ruiz (@alxruiz15) July 4, 2022
And so far, his move has paid off for the Galaxy in spades. With four assists already this season, Edwards has looked like a whole new player at left back, finding himself as one of the most influential players at his position in MLS.
As a result, he currently sits in the top 10% of full backs in shot-creating actions, goal-creating actions, dribbles, and carries into the penalty area, as well as tackles and pressures, showing his ability to help his team on both sides of the ball, which has been a huge asset for Vanney’s side to have (per FBRef).
An overview of his stats (per 90 minutes): 2.91 (94th percentile) shot creating actions; 0.39 (93rd percentile) goal-creating actions; 2.02 (97th percentile) dribbles completed; 0.69 (90th percentile) carries into PK area; 3.25 (92nd percentile) tackles; and 17.25 (91st percentile) in pressured movements. In layman's terms... that's a top performing player right there.
Because of that, he not only has caught the eye of many around the league, who have been paying close attention to Edwards’s exploits with the Galaxy, but he also managed to catch the eyes of one John Herdman, coach of the CanMNT.
“Before my call-up June, I had a little conversation with John, and he basically told me that I was doing well, and to keep that up,” Edwards explained. “So then, I had a conversation with him and Jason DeVos, just talking to them, going through my season, and where they possibly see me with the Canadian national team and what role I could play with the team.”
From there, having seen enough of Edwards’s excellence with LA, Herdman then called him up to the CanMNT’s June camp, the first time he’d called Edwards since his first camp as CanMNT coach back at the beginning of 2018, a span of nearly four-and-half years.
As a result, that allowed Edwards to finally be a part of the group that shocked the region by finishing atop CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in their long-awaited return to the men’s World Cup, something he’d been long waiting to do.
He wasn’t able to add to his four caps that he already has for Canada in that camp, unfortunately, but he got a good taste of the environment, something that he doesn’t take for granted.
“Yeah, it was good,” he continued. “Just seeing how it is now, compared to how it was four years ago, there is a complete difference in terms of the quality of the group. Then, with the players, to see guys that I used to grow up playing against, as well as play with, it was nice to see my bros, all of the staff, so it was really heartwarming and a good refresher to be back with Canada, so now I want to keep my form up in hopes that I can stay there and stick with the boys.”
Along with the chance to work with Canada’s left backs, Alphonso Davies and Sam Adekugbe, two players he knows well but hadn’t seen in a while, it was an experience that certainly stuck with Edwards.
“Credit to both of them,” Edwards said of his fellow Canadian left backs. “The first time I’d seen Phonzy it was his first camp with Canada, he was just a young kid who was 16, I just remember him so wide-eyed, just so happy to be there, and I look at him now he's the guy. And with Sam, in these World Cup qualifiers he really impressed me, I think he has jumped leaps and bounds the past few years, I think he's one of the best left backs in all of North America now, for sure.”
“So to see and play with these guys, it's a treat, the quality is there and it just it makes me have to step up my quality, and puts a little bit of pressure on me, good pressure, though, to be on my toes and make sure that I'm sharp and I'm ready to go and that I'm giving my best and all for Canada.”
Because of that, it has all of a sudden given Edwards a great chance to do something that every young kid dreams of doing - play in a World Cup, which Canada is gearing up to do later this year.
Of course, it’s going to be a tough fight to be among the 26 players that Herdman will bring to Qatar, but Edwards has certainly proven his credentials with his play in MLS this year, making him a good option.
Versatile, while giving depth at a position that could use it, especially if Davies continues to play higher up the pitch for Canada, that could make him a no-brainer to bring to Qatar.
Which, if were to happen, would be something that Edwards would be over the moon to be able to do, saying that just the idea of being able to do that is still hard to fathom for him.
“Wow! Playing the World Cup, you could be Mexican, you could be from America, you could be from Europe, but you all can dream about these things,” Edwards explained. “They could be a long shot, of course, but it could also be tangible, but as a Canadian to dream about these things, playing the World Cup, back when I was a kid, it was definitely not tangible.”
“So for now, for me to even get a chance to be there, I don’t even care to play, but just to suit up and be there and be with my brothers and hear our national anthem at the World Cup is like, holy crap, I just can't fathom that. You can't really put that into words. That would be a surreal moment. Everyone grows up talking about the World Cup when shooting the ball, seeing your friends, so to now see Canada in there, it’s going to be surreal, for sure.”
Before then, however, Edwards has big goals to accomplish. Of course, there is just making Canada’s squad for the September window, first, giving him a chance to get one last audition for Qatar, but other than that, his Galaxy side still remains in the thick of the playoff hunt with less than a dozen games remaining.
After a tough summer slump, they’ve picked up their play lately, with Edwards spearheading that push, something that they’ll want to keep up as the stretch run nears.
At home with the Galaxy, he finally feels like he has found his long-term team, one that he can have the sort of stability that he lacked the last few years, putting those seasons of bouncing around behind him.
“I love everything about the Galaxy,” Edwards said. “The fans have taken me in well, the staff, the people up here, they treat me very, very well.”
Unless a perfect opportunity comes calling, he is happy with what he’s created with the Galaxy, so look for him to play a big role in Vanney’s quest to create the next big dynasty in MLS.
And if that leads to a look elsewhere, he’ll take it, but either way, one thing is for sure - the future is bright for Edwards, who is comfortable rolling with things as they come.
“Well, it’s just like anything else, if someone comes calling, I’ve got to see if it makes sense,” he finished. “When I was a lot younger, I obviously had strong European ambitions, whereas now, it’s changed. I haven’t lost that European interest, but it is a lot more realistic now. Will I get to Europe one day? Possibly. Is there a chance I might not? Possibly.”
“If someone comes calling, it has to be plausible, it has to make sense for me, I’m not hell-bent on being in Europe at all costs, so yeah, if something suitable comes in, or something that I like comes in, for sure, I’d take it.”
“All I can say is I'm very, very happy here (in LA), and I could definitely see myself staying there for a long time.”
“I wouldn’t mind that one bit.”