Edson Buddle #14 of the Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates with teammate David Beckham #23 as Landon Donovan #10 jumps onto the group during the game against the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park. Buddle returned to LA for the 2012 MLS Season. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
The Galaxy have a lot working in their favor, but the loss of Omar Gonzalez could derail it all writes LAG Confidential's Jocelyn Becker.
Los Angeles Galaxy
2011 record (finish): 19-5-10; 67 pts (1st)
Key additions: Marcelo Sarvas, Edson Buddle
Key losses: Donovan Ricketts, Omar Gonzalez (injury)
Projected starting XI: Josh Saunders; Todd Dunivant, A.J. DeLaGarza, Tommy Meyer, Sean Franklin; Landon Donovan, Juninho, David Beckham, Marcelo Sarvas; Edson Buddle, Robbie Keane
Bold prediction: The Galaxy will win CONCACAF Champions League this year. The reasons are twofold. As the supposed luck of the CONCACAF draw would have it, three FMF clubs were placed on one side of the bracket, and three MLS clubs on the other. Toronto FC, the Galaxy's quarterfinal opponent, have been a thorn in LA's side the last two years (four draws in four matches) but the last time Toronto defeated the Galaxy was in 2008. The Galaxy's semi-final opponent would be either the Seattle Sounders or Santos Laguna. The Sounders have defeated the Galaxy only once in MLS competition since joining the league, and Santos' form as of late has been poor.
On the MLS season side of things, it would be bold to predict a third straight Supporters' Shield for the Galaxy. However, this is the section for bold predictions and while the Galaxy's Three DP program has only produced the one Cup title, it's turned the club into a bit of a regular season juggernaut. The only thing keeping the Galaxy from being just as dominant as they were last year is....
Biggest fear: Omar Gonzalez leaves such a big gap in the back line that, like a black hole, the Galaxy defense sucks all the light from the team, the fans and everyone in Carson. Losing the Defender of the Year hurts, and unlike losing the Goalkeeper of the Year last year the Galaxy don't have a fantastic and ready option to pop off the bench. In preseason, the Galaxy have resorted to placing first round draft pick Tommy Meyer in that slot.
Meyer may be brilliant, but working out communication and assignments is an issue that can only be fixed on the pitch in live game situations. Josh Saunders remains the eyes in the back of the head for the defense, as he was last year, but now A.J. DeLaGarza has to step up in the middle and play the role Gonzalez played last year. It'll be up to DeLaGarza to keep the line together and it'll be interesting to watch and see how he copes with the new responsibility.
With David Beckham on a year-to-year basis (Tim Leiweke declined to say if it was a solid two years or one year with an option but more likely the latter), Landon Donovan's contract up in 2013, as is Robbie Keane's; 2012 is probably the last hurrah for the old core. Which means anything short of brilliance will be seen as a massive disappointment in the eyes of many. From the national media who questioned if the Galaxy's plan could work in MLS, to the season ticket holders asked to shoulder some of the burden of paying for the show; Beckham returning means the Galaxy must win big again.
- Report by Jocelyn Becker, LAG Confidential