MLSsoccer.com is previewing each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part one of two previewing LA's 2012 season. You can find Part 2 here.
Setting the Scene
MatchDay 360: LA wins MLS Cup
The LA Galaxy did it all in 2011 — Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup 2011, won their CONCACAF Champions League group. The season was the culmination of three years of sustained success and set such a high mark that club officials said the Galaxy’s 2011 team has set the standard for all other MLS teams to try and emulate.
The only way to improve on their performance this year will be to make a Champions League run. Right off the bat, LA will face a must-win game as they'll play Toronto FC in a Champions League quarterfinal series. How they fare, not just against TFC but in the Champions League knockout rounds as a whole, could determine what sort of team they'll have this year, and whether a repeat of 2011 is likely or even possible.
In and Out
IN: D Andrew Boyens (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Chivas USA); F Pat Noonan (12/12: Re-Entry Stage 2/Seattle); M Marcelo Sarvas (12/13: free/Alajuelense); M Jose Villarreal (12/22: Homegrown); D Tommy Meyer (1/12: SuperDraft); M Kenney Walker (1/12: SuperDraft); F Bryan Gaul (1/17: supplemental draft); M Rafael Garcia (1/17: supplemental draft); D Justin Davies (1/17: supplemental draft); F Edson Buddle (2/1: free); M Kyle Nakazawa (2/1: trade from Philadelphia); G Bill Gaudette (2/29: free)
OUT: D Gregg Berhalter (12/9: retired); G Donovan Ricketts (11/28: trade to Montreal); M/F Miguel López (1/10: loan expired); M Jovan Kirovski (1/23: retired); D Dasan Robinson (1/27: retired); D Frankie Hejduk (1/30: contract expired)
Star Attraction: David Beckham
His future seemed intertwined with Paris, but Beckham chose to remain with the Galaxy for another two seasons. The move will have both immediate and long-term ramifications. Still possessing world-class set-piece and distribution ability, Beckham will make the Galaxy a greater threat in Champions League while helping the club chase Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup glory.
Unsung Hero: Mike Magee
LA thrilled about Buddle's return
After stepping in and playing goalkeeper for more than a half in a 0-0 draw with San Jose in June, Magee’s season took off. Already a gritty blue-collar player, Magee elevated his game and pieced together his finest campaign, scoring 10 goals in all competitions, a career high. Magee has continued to find the back of the net in the preseason, which means 2011 may not be a career year after all.
Ready for Primetime: A.J. DeLaGarza
He’s undersized. He’s better suited for a fullback spot. He’s not the prototypical central defender. For as much success as DeLaGarza has enjoyed in his brief career, he still has not received anywhere near enough national attention, largely due to playing in the shadow of defensive partner Omar Gonzalez. Now with a knee injury sidelining Omar Gonzalez through at least August, DeLaGarza will have the chance to show that he can be a leader and star defender on the league’s top team.
Storylines to Watch
1. Can the Galaxy keep things in perspective and focus on one task at a time? In 2011, the Galaxy did well to keep their focus no matter what was in their way — Champions League, regular season, the high-profile addition of Robbie Keane. Their focus will once again get tested in 2012 when the season starts. Sandwiched around the first regular-season game of the year, a March 10 home opener vs. Real Salt Lake, is the CCL quarterfinal series against Toronto. LA will have to keep themselves mentally and emotionally sharp.
2. Can LA start quickly to avoid an early exit in CCL? With such intense matches to start the year, the Galaxy will have to rediscover some of that focus from a year ago and hope it carries over into the new season. Real Salt Lake were in a similar position in 2011, reaching the Champions League finals while piecing together a strong opening to the season, but after losing to Monterrey in the final, RSL’s league form suffered. A similar fate could await the Galaxy unless they keep their focus.
What He Said
"We want to improve from last season. We went all the way, won the championship and performed very well — but we want to do it again this season. A lot of hard work is required but we’ve got a group of players willing to do that."
– LA midfielder David Beckham (pictured right)
If Everything Goes Right
If the Champions League does not adversely affect the Galaxy, they're among the favorites to win MLS Cup 2012. The unbalanced schedule will make it more challenging for any Western Conference club to win the Supporters’ Shield, but another run at MLS Cup surely awaits.
WATCH: LA's depth key to busy 2012