Fans across the U.S. and Canada are preparing for their favorite team’s opening match, stocking up on food and beverages for tailgates, gear to wear to the game, and of course, analyzing every off season move made by their team.
For the reigning MLS Cup Champions, the off season was tumultuous. Immediately after winning the cup, rumors were flying that David Beckham would sign with a European team. Then Omar Gonzalez tore his ACL during his very first training session while on an off season loan to FC Nuremberg. To top it all off, breakout star midfielder Juninho went back to Sao Paolo, since his loan with LA had ended. The 2012 season was not looking bright for the defending champs.
Suddenly, things started to turn around. Beckham resigned for another two years, Juninho was sent back on loan, and coach Bruce Arena picked up a few good options to help replace the giant hole left at center back with Gonzalez’s absence. Plus the surprise addition of Edson Buddle, and suddenly the Galaxy look nearly unstoppable.
The 2-2 draw at Toronto gives the Galaxy a great advantage as they head back to Carson, CA for the second leg. All LA needs to do is draw with a score of less than 3-3. Or, they could just win and not have to deal with the aggregate goals.
Wednesday’s CCL game gave us a first look at what LA’s starting line up might look like for the MLS season. I know I wasn’t the only one practically drooling over the insanely stellar starting 11. Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin, AJ DeLaGarza, Todd Dunivant, Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee, Robbie Keane and Edson Buddle. It’s not even fair.
The only question mark for the Galaxy is filling the open center back position. Not an easy task, as the player absent from that spot was the 2011 Defender of the Year. Without Gonzalez holding down the fort, who will step up to fill the gap?
Once Meyer gets more minutes on the field as a professional, I have a feeling Arena will start choosing him over Boyens.
While whoever ends up in that starting center back position has huge cleats to fill, the player who must step up the most this season is surely DeLaGarza. As the other center back, he will inevitably end up leading the backline. His role will be crucial in making sure the defense stays together as a cohesive unit. From everything I saw in preseason, and in the CCL match against Toronto, DeLaGarza is already becoming a leader on the field.
Enough about the defense, let’s talk about the Galaxy’s midfielders and forwards. This is an attacking line that is going to score goals this season, and a lot of them. Keane and Buddle paired up front, backed by Donovan, Beckham, Juninho and Magee is a force to be reckoned with. I would not want to be a defender having to deal with that kind of offensive power.
I was truly shocked to see him take Boyens out. Arena is well-known amongst Galaxy fans for his beloved “park the bus” strategy. Yes, LA was losing, but a 2-1 loss wouldn’t have been completely unmanageable in the two leg series. Instead of settling for that, Arena took a risk, one that could have ended with Toronto scoring a third goal.
Luckily for LA, the gamble paid off when Donovan scored shortly after the substitutions. If this is attack-minded strategy is something that Arena deploys in every game: watch out, MLS. LA is on a mission to win, and win big.