2013 LA Galaxy Preview: Is record-setting three-peat in the works?
2012 record: 16-12-6 (54 points); 59 GF / 47 GA (+12 GD)
With less than a week left until opening day, MLSsoccer.com is halfway through previewing each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part one of two previewing LA's 2013 season. You can find Part 2 here.
Setting the Scene
The Galaxy hope to handle success better this year than they did in 2012, when they overcame a horrendous start – quick elimination by Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League, and then a 3-8-2 run leading to the Western Conference cellar by the end of May – to claim a second straight MLS Cup title.
Now they face life without David Beckham, who has taken off for Paris, and must retool their attack to fit personnel, all the while missing their most influential player: Landon Donovan won't be in camp until the end of March and likely won't play until at least mid-April. By then, LA will have faced the CCL's knockout rounds and a half-dozen MLS foes.
More questions await, including a DP replacement for Beckham, but the biggest will concern Donovan's frame of mind when he arrives. That could determine everything as LA look for an unprecedented three-peat.
In and Out
IN: D Oscar Sorto (12/11 – Homegrown); M Colin Clark (12/14 Re-Entry Stage 2/Houston), F Gyasi Zardes (12/20 – Homegrown), G Carlo Cudicini (12/31 – free/Tottenham), F/M Charlie Rugg (1/17 – SuperDraft), D Kofi Opare (1/17 – SuperDraft), M/D Greg Cochrane (1/17 – SuperDraft), M/F/D Andy Riemer (1/22 – Supplemental Draft).
OUT: M Pat Noonan (12/3 – option declined, then retired), F Chad Barrett (12/3 option declined), D Andrew Boyens (12/3 – option declined), D/M Bryan Jordan (12/3 – option declined), M Kyle Nakazawa (12/3 – option declined, then retired), F Edson Buddle (12/14 – trade to Colorado), M David Beckham (12/31 – contract expired), G Josh Saunders (12/31 – contract expired), M Christian Wilhelmsson (12/31 – contract expired), M Dan Keat (12/31 – contract expired), D David Júnior Lopes (12/31 – contract expired).
READ: 2013 LA Galaxy Depth Chart
Star Attraction: Robbie Keane
The fiery Irish striker returned from a disappointing European Championship last summer and all but took over MLS. He scored 20 goals in 26 games after his return, six of the strikes in the playoffs, and has 18 in 32 regular-season games since joining LA in August 2011. The goals are just one facet of MLS' best forward: He's also the Galaxy's true leader, raises the games of those around him (combines with everyone in attack), teaches a master class on how a forward should move off the ball (and with it), has no problem doing dirty work, and can finish from tight space nearly anywhere in and around the box.
Unsung Hero: A.J. DeLaGarza
The fifth-year veteran has quietly prospered in the shadow of Omar Gonzalez, among others, since joining the Galaxy, but he was the key figure trying to hold the backline together while the big man was sidelined with that ACL tear most of last season. He's not big for a center back – only 5-foot-9 – but his speed, ability to read the game and knack in closing down foes' forays is critical for LA's defense. He's in a US national team pool, has in LA started 118 games (all competitions), and has a natural partnership with Gonzalez, his former teammate (and roommate) at the University of Maryland. Could see some time at right back this year.
Ready for Primetime: Michael Stephens
Versatility has been both calling card and curse for the fourth-year midfielder, who can play on either flank or in the middle. He started 21 MLS games as a rookie and only 18 since. That's more to do with the talent available to Arena, who has made Stephens the do-anything sub of choice on the Galaxy bench the past two years. This year will provide opportunity to lock down a spot, and Donovan's absence probably makes the job on the right side of midfield his to win, at least for the short-term. Beyond that, we'll see.
Storylines to Watch
1. What about Landon? Donovan's time away is set to extend until late March, and he'll need time to get into playing shape. He's so vital to everything the Galaxy do, especially on attack, so his absence could greatly impact LA's start to the campaign – and will he return with the commitment they need?
2. The post-Beckham era: Beckham abruptly ended his six-year tenure with the Galaxy in December, going out on top, of course, and LA must soldier on without his glorious right foot. That's a bigger deal than it sounds: Their attack has been largely fed by Beckham's ability to deliver a ball (and create a scoring chance) from nearly anywhere on the field. Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas ought to mesh well in the middle – both are good two-way central midfielders with a creative streak, and Juninho has that rocket shot – but LA must transition to a different mode in the center of the pitch..
3. Back to back to back: It's hard to repeat as champs, and only three teams – the Galaxy being the third – have done so in Major League Soccer. Three-peat? Never been done, but that's LA's aim.
What He Said
“There's always something to prove. We're, obviously, the defending champions twice over now, and it's a good thing to have that target on your back, but we feel like there's always been a target on our back. We're seen as the team with the big stars and we have all the advantages and all that stuff, and at the end of the day, we play the same role as everybody else. It's been a challenge for us to live up to those expectations, and we have for the past three, four seasons, and the challenge is to keep it going.”
– Defender Todd Dunivant
If Everything Goes Right
If Donovan returns in top form, Keane remains a force up top, Gonzalez continues to dominate in the back, the transition to a post-Beckham attack comes easily, a youngster or two steps up and assumes a key role, and, perhaps, Frank Lampard (or someone similar) joins up in midsummer, the Galaxy are capable of a spectacular campaign: CONCACAF Champions League title (with a December date in the FIFA Club World Cup), a third Supporters' Shield in four seasons and a third straight MLS Cup crown. It's not out of the realm.
Even if things don't go so perfectly, they'll still likely be in MLS Cup contention.