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 1 here.
2012 record: 16-12-6 (54 points); 59 GF / 47 GA (+12 GD)
Depth chart: 1. Carlo Cudicini, 2. Brian Perk, 3. Brian Rowe
Strengths: The Italian Cudicini, who signed from Tottenham Hotspur, has great experience, plays younger than his 39 years and appears expert at organizing a defense. Perk is a fine backup who wants to be a starter, but will have to pry that role from the veteran's hands.
Weaknesses: Cudicini has played at big clubs, but he hasn't played a lot in recent years, neither for Chelsea nor Spurs. Neither Perk nor Rowe have a lot of MLS experience.
Wild card: Will Hesmer's decision to retire gives Rowe the No. 3 job unchallenged. He needs games but likely will see very few this year, at any level.
Depth chart: RB 1. Sean Franklin, 2. A.J. DeLaGarza, 3. Oscar Sorto; CB 1. Omar Gonzalez-A.J. DeLaGarza, 2. Tommy Meyer, 3. Leonardo, 4. Kofi Opare; LB 1. Todd Dunivant, 2. Bryan Gaul.
Strengths: The starting quartet has been together now five seasons, and the central tandem was together in college, too. Gonzalez might be the league's premier defender, and the other three starters are quite good, too. Leonardo and Meyer provide strong cover in the middle.
Weaknesses: The depth is very, very young, especially out wide.
Wild card: Gaul, a second-year backup to Dunivant, has an attacker's heart, and he'll likely get more chances this year to show what he can do.
Depth chart: RM 1. Mike Magee, 2. Michael Stephens, 3. Hector Jimenez, 4. Charlie Rugg; CM 1. Juninho-Marcelo Sarvas, 2. Rafael Garcia, 3. Hector Jimenez, 4. Kenney Walker, 5. Andy Riemer; LM 1. Colin Clark, 2. Mike Magee, 3. Greg Cochrane. Not listed: Landon Donovan.
Strengths: Once Donovan arrives in late March (and is ready to play by, they hope, late April), this ought to be a deep, creative group – whether Donovan plays here or up top. Magee is partnering Robbie Keane up top to start the season, but he'll spend most of his time as a wide midfielder, perhaps more so on the right with Clark's arrival from Houston. There is growing depth, with Stephens and perhaps Jimenez aiming for breakout seasons.
Weaknesses: David Beckham so influenced how the Galaxy attacked – and his deep, on-target service provided a weapon nobody else in MLS had. His departure leaves the middle for Brazilians Juninho and Sarvas (unless a new DP arrives at some point), and their skill set will change the way LA plays, whether or not by design. That transition might take time, especially with Donovan missing.
Wild card: Jimenez was transformed into a winger during his college days and made 18 competitive first-team starts on the right flank last year in his second MLS season. He's getting a look in central midfield, his original spot, and has looked good in preseason play.
Depth chart: 1. Robbie Keane; 2. Jose Villarreal, 3. Mike Magee, 4. Charlie Rugg, 5. Gyasi Zardes, 6. Jack McBean. Not listed: Landon Donovan.
Strengths: Keane might be the best pure forward in MLS. Ever. He's coming off a season in which he scored 23 goals, all told, and he's likely to own the captain's armband from start to finish. Donovan, once he's back, is Keane's likely partner, a job Magee and Villarreal (once he's home from the U-20 World Cup qualifying), mostly, will fill until he's ready.
Weaknesses: Aside from Keane (and Magee, primarily a midfielder), it's a very young, very unproven group. There are big hopes for Zardes – though how soon he blossoms is up in the air – and McBean probably needs another year.
Wild card: Arena's plans for rookie Rugg involved the right side of midfield, but Donovan's and Villarreal's absences and Zardes' fifth-metatarsal injury meant time up top in preseason action. He's big, strong, fast and can finish.