Marcelo Sarvas will be an integral part of the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2014. ((Rafael Orellana/Living Out Loud LA))
The Los Angeles Galaxy kick off their 2014 MLS season tonight when they host Real Salt Lake at the Stubhub Center. As usual, the Galaxy enter the season with high expectations and are among the favorites to lift the MLS Cup in November.
This season will come with an added challenge, however, as the Galaxy will have to make ends meet without Landon Donovan and defensive anchor Omar Gonzalez, both Designated Players, from May until shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. They are both likely to be important pieces of the US Men’s National Team this summer.
But like every MLS team with players that will depart to Brazil this summer, the Galaxy have prepared for this by adding depth to their squad.
There are many players who will be given opportunities they otherwise might not get, and they will be expected to do more than just hold the fort.
2013 recap: The end of the 2013 season left the Galaxy with a sour taste. An extra-time goal by Real Salt Lake’s Chris Schuler in the Western Conference semifinals ended the Galaxy’s chance at a three-peat. The Galaxy were inconsistent throughout the season, especially on set pieces defensively.
Key arrivals: F Rob Friend (1860 Munich, Germany), F Samuel (Fluminense, Brazil), M Stefan Ishizaki (IF Elfsborg, Sweden), M Baggio Husidic (Hammarby IF)
Key departures: D Sean Franklinn (D.C. United), M Michael Stephens (Stabæk, Norway), G Carlo Cudicini (released), M Pablo Mastroeni (retired), F Jose Villarreal (Cruz Azul, Mexico), M Hector Jimenez (Columbus Crew)
The Galaxy have addressed their lack of a physical presence up top by adding two big, strong forwards in Friend and Samuel. This means Donovan will move back to the midfield, where he’ll play on the opposite flank of Ishizaki.
Coach Bruce Arena talked about the team’s preparation after their last preseason game two weeks ago by saying, “We are moving forward, I think we made good progress in the preseason and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we can get better.”
Donovan was also optimistic about the team’s preparation. “Bruce has played a lot of us together a lot of minutes in some of these games so we are starting to get good chemistry.
“We are the same team for the most part, except Gyasi [Zardes] playing wide, and a forward up top. We are getting used to Rob [Friend], we are getting used to Samuel. Gyasi is getting better and better I think every time he plays there, and we are getting more and more comfortable.”
The keys to success for the Galaxy depend on whether the guys who will get opportunities will take advantage of those opportunities and whether the new additions mesh together as well as Arena plans them to.
The Galaxy will face Club Xoloitzcuintles de Tijuana Wednesday night at the Stubhub Center in the first leg of the Concachampions Quarterfinals.