CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Head coach Bruce Arena of the Los Angeles Galaxy and his team celebrate with the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy after defeating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 in the 2011 MLS Cup at The Home Depot Center on November 20, 2011 in Carson, California. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
The LA Galaxy return three Designated Players in Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Robbie Keane as they try to repeat as MLS Champions.
The LA Galaxy begin the 2012 MLS season the best way an American soccer club can; with a ring ceremony. The Home Depot Center opened with a ring ceremony in 2003, and now ten years after ground was broken on the corner of the Cal State Dominguez Hills Campus it'll host it's third such event.
While the Galaxy begin the competitive part of 2012 on the road Wednesday in Toronto, the club will play it's three March MLS matches at home. Not a bad place to begin the season, considering the Galaxy were undefeated at home last season. So how could LA improve on last year?
Advancing in the CONCACAF Champions League would send an already celebratory March into the stratosphere. After opening things up in Toronto, the Galaxy have their home opener on Saturday at the Home Depot Center against Real Salt Lake. A favorable result will likely mean a festive atmosphere against the team the Galaxy defeated in the Western Conference Championship. Then the Galaxy have to turn it around and close out the CONCACAF quarterfinal series against Toronto at the HDC a week from Wednesday.
It's a power packed start to a marathon of a season that will likely feature many more weekday-weekend-weekday features. The rest of the month is a bit more favorable, with the Galaxy getting a Sunday feature against DC United after the quarterfinal tie. The Galaxy then get a weekend off, before facing the New England Revolution to close out March. Two midling opponents from a weaker Eastern Conference having to travel cross country should be a relative breeze. Good news for the Galaxy, as any semi-final match would open in that last week of March.
April will be the more challenging month, with trips to Kansas City and Colorado on the docket and having to play host to the always tough New York Red Bulls. Should the Galaxy make the semi-finals, they'd have to play the second leg of that tie in the first week of April. With the Portland Timbers and FC Dallas also scheduled to visit the HDC in April, it's going to be a very busy month.
This means depth is going to come into play in a big way. Luckily, the Galaxy were quite proactive in the offseason. Robbie Keane gained a new mate up top with the return of Edson Buddle. April will see the Galaxy need to rotate in Keane's partners from last season, Adam Cristman and Chad Barrett, to keep legs fresh.
In the midfield, new acquisition Marcelo Sarvas is cup tied because he began the Champions League season with Alajuelense who the Galaxy faced twice last year in the CCL. He'll be called on to keep fresh the legs of returning Juninho, but Galaxy fans are excited to see what a midfield composed of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Juninho, and Marcelo Sarvas can do. Having Mike Magee and Michael Stephens as options off the bench means there are serval combinations the Galaxy could throw out there that most clubs would be envious to have.
The biggest question is how the back line is going to cope with the loss of 2011 Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez. Gonzalez went down with injury in his first day on loan to a Bundesliga club, and the knee and subsequent surgery will keep him out of most if not all of the 2012 season. This means A.J. DeLaGarza has to step up as a leader at Center Back, while simultaneously having to mentor MLS newbie Tommy Meyer. Acquired in the MLS SuperDraft, Meyer will have to quite a bit of homework to have himself ready to jump into the middle of the Champions League competition.
With March featuring at least four home matches, it's likely the Galaxy won't face a true test until April. How things go in the month to come will go a long way to defining just what kind of year the Galaxy have in their seventeenth year of existence.