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Galaxy looking to recapture elusive MLS championship

Los Angeles has not won a title since 2005 but has come close in the last two seasons. The Galaxy begins its 16th season on Tuesday night, and there is a sense around the team that this could be the year.

March 14, 2011|By Grahame L. Jones
  • Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, possibly in his final season with the club, crosses the ball against Club Tijuana during the second half of an exhibition game at Torero Stadium in San Diego.
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, possibly in his final season with the… (Kent Horner / Getty Images )

It begins in 2011 where it ended in 2009.

On Tuesday night, at a sold-out Qwest Field in Seattle, the Galaxy launches its 16th Major League Soccer season, still seeking the championship that has eluded the club since 2005.

Coach Bruce Arena's team has come close in the last two seasons, losing the final to Real Salt Lake in Seattle in 2009 and falling to FC Dallas in the Western Conference title game in Carson in 2010.

MLS priorities remain a question

There is a sense around the team that this could be the year, that this should be the year, and the reasons are many.

• Arena has made some key off-season moves that have added depth to the team across the board — Frankie Hejduk in defense, Paolo Cardozo and Miguel Lopez in midfield, Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett up top, to name only five of 11 newcomers.

• It could be David Beckham's final season in MLS, his last chance to add some North American silverware to his collection before the demands of age — he will be 36 on May 2 — and his expected role in the 2012 London Olympic Games take their toll.

There will also be an addition to the Beckham household this summer, a fourth child and a first daughter, due to arrive in July. Beckham made the announcement at the Galaxy's kickoff luncheon.

"Obviously, having three boys, you kind of expect another one, so finding out a little girl is in there is surprising, but, obviously, we are over the moon," he said.

• It has been six years since Landon Donovan won the most recent of his three MLS titles, the first two coming with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001 and 2003. Donovan, who turned 29 on March 4, and defender Todd Dunivant are the only remaining members of the Galaxy's 2005 championship side still on the roster.

• There are hints that the Home Depot Center might be chosen as the site of November's MLS Cup championship game, providing added incentive for Los Angeles to reach the final.

First, of course, there is the not-so-small matter of the 34 games that make up the regular season, a season that will see the Galaxy also competing in the CONCACAF Champions League and in the U.S. Open Cup.

That adds up to a minimum of 41 games, something the Galaxy is making far too much noise about considering, for instance, that in Spain, Barcelona already has played 41 games and still has 21/2 months left in its season.

"We want to win championships; we want to win trophies," Arena said. "I think from August of 2008, when I came in, to where we are now, in March of 2011, we've made some progress.

"In this league, it's difficult from year to year. It's never easy … [but] I think we're positioned to do well this year."

It has been four months since the Galaxy played a competitive match, and it could take several games to get back the rhythm and flow, not to mention having to adapt to its new players.

In goal, the Galaxy has no worries, with starter Donovan Ricketts and backup Josh Saunders as solid a pair as any in MLS.

The defense has the usual mixture of young and old, experience and inexperience, but aside from the old-timers being a shade injury-prone and the youngsters prone to mental mistakes, it should be up to the challenge.

The midfield is greatly enhanced by the addition of the lively Cardozo, and Arena's problem will be whom to leave out from among Beckham, Donovan, Chris Birchall and the greatly improved Juninho in order to get Cardozo on the field.

Arena already has stated that Beckham will not play every game.

Up front, Angel and Barrett are being counted on to make up for the loss of Edson Buddle, who opted to play in Germany. Mike Magee and Adam Cristman are ready to step in if they fail.

The bottom line, though, remains Donovan. As he goes, so goes the Galaxy, and Hejduk, Donovan's former U.S. World Cup teammate, has put the 2011 expectations in stark terms.

"Anything less than a championship would be a disappointment, to be honest," he said.

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