Robert Mora / LA Galaxy

2011 LA Galaxy Preview: All in for a run at glory

The Tweet and Lowdown:

Locked and loaded, LA Galaxy are out to finish what they couldn’t in 2010 – get to and win MLS Cup.

Setting the Scene:

The Galaxy suffered a devastating loss to FC Dallas in the 2010 Western Conference Championship and then took another blow to the chin when Edson Buddle left for Germany. But like true contenders, they dusted themselves off, welcoming Juan Pablo Angel, Chad Barrett and Frankie Hejduk, among others, to the squad.

With David Beckham entering the final year of his contract, the onus on winning is greater now than at any point since he joined the club. Becks figures to be around for most, if not all, of the 2011 season (no pesky loan or England duty to get in the way). That means the Galaxy will have one of the most influential players in the league on their side from Day One.

Youth will only continue to play a more significant role as Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin and Juninho should play key roles on the squad. Add exciting youngsters Paolo Cardozo and Miguel Lopez to the mix and the Galaxy will have a different feel to their squad in 2011.

Key Changes:

Players In: Juan Pablo Ángel (New York), Chad Barrett (Toronto FC), Frankie Hejduk (Columbus), Adam Cristman (D.C. United), Paolo Cardozo (Quilmes, Argentina), Miguel López (Quilmes, Argentina), Hector Jimenez (University of California), Dan Keat (Dartmouth Univ.), Dustin McCarthy (Univ. of North Carolina), Ryan Thomas (Stanford Univ.), Jack McBean (Home Grown)

Players Out: Edson Buddle (FC Ingolstadt, Germany), Alex Cazumba (loan expiration, São Paulo), Chris Klein (retired), Eddie Lewis (retired), Dema Kovalenko (waived, retired), Yohance Marshall (waived), Tristan Bowen (Chivas USA)

Coaching staff: Cobi Jones left the club after spending his entire MLS career with the Galaxy, first as a player and then as an assistant coach. He joined the New York Cosmos and was replaced by former Kansas City and D.C. United coach Curt Onalfo. Also, defender Gregg Berhalter was promoted to assistant coach and will serve as player/coach for the 2011 season.

Star Attraction: Landon Donovan

After an offseason of rest, Donovan joined LA for the start of the preseason for the first time since 2008. Despite potentially missing the month of June due to CONCACAF Gold Cup duty, Donovan will determine the Galaxy’s fortunes in 2011.

Unsung Hero: Chad Barrett

Too often, Barrett has appeared in highlight reels for the wrong reasons. But with other stars around to carry the team and score goals, he won’t have the demands placed on him as he did in Toronto and Chicago. Barrett has set a target of double-digit goals this season, and if he reaches that, the Galaxy offense will be one of the best in the league.

Ready For Primetime: Juninho

A modest frame and a temperament to match, Juninho has something he didn’t have in 2010: experience. With his year’s worth of MLS play under his belt, the Brazilian midfielder has found some confidence. The São Paulo loanee will have his opportunities this season, and unlike last year, he’ll take them now.

WATCH: Beckham, Donovan, Birchall and Franklin preview MLS First Kick

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Storylines to Watch:

From March through mid-May, the Galaxy will be sailing calmly, focusing only on MLS play. But after that, the club will face one challenge after another. First, the Gold Cup could rob the team of players such as Donovan, Gonzalez and Donovan Ricketts. Then comes US Open Cup play, which precludes what could be the biggest test for the club in 2011: CONCACAF Champions League play.

All told, the Galaxy are guaranteed of playing 41 games this year, more if the club advances in both Open Cup and into the postseason. Thus, the team needs contributions from not only players such as Beckham and Ángel but also Cristman, Leonardo and Josh Saunders.

Still, the club will try and at least match their accomplishments from 2010 in league play, which is to win the Supporters’ Shield. Galaxy players still feel proud of what they did a year ago, even if the season ended prematurely, one step before MLS Cup.

What He Said:

“Having a team [that is] hopefully injury-free and depth are going to be critically important. I think we’ve done a good job in improving our team in terms of depth. We still have the right balance of experienced players and new players.”

– Head coach Bruce Arena

If Everything Goes Right:

The Galaxy will go for broke in 2011, having invested heavily in Ángel and Beckham and have no goal greater than the club’s third league title. They have the depth, the continuity and the experience, so anything less than the Philip F. Anschutz trophy will be viewed as failure.

What Happened in 2010:

May 8, 2010: Galaxy @ Seattle
Galaxy defeat Sounders 4-0. Seattle fans are issued refunds for the match.

July 4, 2010: Galaxy vs Seattle
Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle return from national team duty, and Juninho scores his first goal of the season "with no regard for humanity," helping lead his team to a 3-1 victory.

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October 31, 2010: Galaxy @ Seattle (MLS Western Conference Semifinals, Game 1)
Edson Buddle scores a stunner from 35-yards out, silencing the 35,000+ person crowd and leading the Galaxy to a 1-0 win in Seattle.

November 7, 2010: Galaxy vs Seattle (MLS Western Conference Semifinals, Game 2)
Beckham assists Gonzalez and Buddle headers as the Galaxy defeat the Sounders 2-1 and advance to the Western Conference Championship.

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Match Related News:
View from the Booth: Seattle provides first test of 2011
Sounders defense wary of Ángel, Barrett up top
LA “driven to win a championship” in 2011
Goalkeeper Saunders ready to step in for Galaxy
Angel adjusting to life in first year with the Galaxy
Preseason wrapped, LA turn attention to Seattle

Take your photo with the 2010 Supporters' Shield and 2009 Western Conference Championship Trophy on Tuesday, March 15 at Ye Olde King's Head before your LA Galaxy face the Seattle Sounders in MLS First Kick 2011 at 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN/Deportes. Plus, opportunities to win tickets to the Galaxy home opener as well as an autographed jersey! MORE INFO

On Sunday, March 20, the Galaxy will host the New England Revolution in their home opener, presented by Pechanga Resort & Casino, at 5 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. The first 15,000 fans will receive 2011 magnet schedules. Tickets are available for that match, starting at $25. BUY NOW