Monday, March 7, 2011
Los Angeles Galaxy 2011 MLS Season Preview
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
The 2010 season was another year the Los Angeles Galaxy fell short.
Again with one of the most loaded teams in the league, the Galaxy was the top-seed in the Western Conference for the second consecutive season and won the Supporter’s Shield. However, they were bounced in the semifinals of the MLS Cup playoffs.
It appears management won’t settle for anything short of the franchise’s third championship, so the team brought in several big-name acquisitions over the offseason.
The team was dealt a rather large blow when breakout star and 2010 leading goal scorer Edson Buddle left Los Angeles for Germany. Who would pick up the goal scoring slack?
The organization acted quickly in not only replacing Buddle, but improving its entire stable of forwards. The Galaxy traded for Adam Cristman and Chad Barrett and acquired Designated Player Juan Pablo Angel—the New York Red Bulls’ all-time leading goal scorer—in the Re-Entry draft.
Angel may be 35-years-old and have some injuries that have bothered him in recent years, but he still was New York’s leading goal scorer not only last season, but all four years he was with the franchise. He is deadly as a penalty-kick taker.
Barrett is a nice-pickup for the squad. He’s only 25-years-old and put together a few solid seasons with Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire. With more experience and a better supporting cast to serve him up top, Barrett could be in store for a big year stat-wise.
The defense also got a new addition this year, adding Frankie Hejduk through the Re-Entry draft. He’s 36-years-old and hasn’t been relied on by the Columbus Crew or the U.S. National Team recently like he was in years past, but he can still play. He should help solidify the backline as well as continue to help young defensive standouts Omar Gonzalez and Sean Franklin mature.
The front office has done extremely well drafting players the past few years and has a good mix of youth and experience on the roster. Make no mistake about it though, the Galaxy are in a win-now mode. Angel, Hejduk and defender Gregg Berhalter are all towards the end of their careers. Landon Donovan, arguably the best player in league history, has been flirting with a move to Europe for a few years now. Also, David Beckham, the league’s first Designated Player, is in the final year of a five-year contract he signed with the team.
Maybe more important than the new additions, though, is the health of Donovan and Beckham. After multiple years of nonstop soccer with the Galaxy, their respective national teams and going on winter-loans, both of them finally slowed down this past offseason.
After playing year-round, Donovan, with his stock higher than ever thanks to his performance in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, decided he needed time to rest. He did not go out on another loan and did not play in any of the U.S. National Team’s games. Looking at his Twitter account, one could tell he was itching to be on the field. But the rest should serve his body well, and refresh him for the MLS season.
Beckham didn’t willingly sit out the winter months, but the Galaxy—fearing for his health after he tore his Achilles tendon with AC Milan last year—refused to let him out on loan. Beckham trained with Tottenham and the Galaxy hope the last season of his contract—and maybe with the Galaxy ever—will be his best.
So the team’s leading men are rested and should have their legs under them for the entirety of the season as the team makes one final push to the top.
The Galaxy resemble the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA. They should dominate the regular season and be a favorite for the championship heading into the playoffs. What will it take for them to get over the hump though?
They have lots of players with MLS experience on this team and plenty of leadership—Angel and Hejduk were captains of their clubs—to potentially rectify that reoccurring problem.
David Beckham joins the L.A. Galaxy in preseason. Video from YouTube.