Why L.A. Galaxy Are Early Favorites to Win the MLS Cup
It’s still early in the young 2013 Major League Soccer season with most teams only six or seven games into the 34-game season.
With that being said, there are many signs that already point to an L.A. Galaxy three-peat for the 2013 MLS Cup.
Here are five reasons the Galaxy are already the early favorites to win the title yet again.
They’ve been there before
The L.A. Galaxy have been the most dominant team in MLS the past four seasons, winning the Western Conference in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the Supporters’ Shield as the MLS team with the best regular season record in 2010 and 2011 and the MLS Cup in 2011 and 2012.
Experience counts in MLS, and the Galaxy has loads of it. The only major loss from their 2012 championship season is David Beckham.
Early in the 2012 MLS season, with Omar Gonzalez still recovering from an off-season ACL injury suffered while on loan with Nuremberg, the Galaxy struggled. Of their first 13 games, the Galaxy won only three and fell to last place in the Western Conference.
After Gonzalez’s return to the starting XI, however, the Galaxy went 11-4-3 (win-loss-draw format) and made a playoff run, which included knocking off all of the league’s hottest teams in the San Jose Earthquakes, the Seattle Sounders and the Houston Dynamo.
Gonzalez went on to win the MVP award in the 2012 MLS Cup final with a terrific defensive display and the game-tying goal to boot. Since then, Gonzalez has been on an absolute tear, earning four caps with the United States men’s national team, being a vital piece of the USMNT’s 0-0 away draw to Mexico and having a number of dominant performances for the Galaxy already this spring.
There is little doubt that Omar Gonzalez is one of the best, if not the best, center-backs in the league.
The rest of the LA Galaxy defense
While Gonzalez is the foundation of the Galaxy’s back line, there are many other great defenders filling in the rest of the puzzle for the Galaxy defense.
Sean Franklin, the Galaxy’s right-back, is one of the best attacking right-backs in the league.
A.J. DeLaGarza, who can play as a center-back or on either flank, is one of the most versatile and tactically astute defenders in the league.
Add in a veteran like Todd Dunivant, a healthy Leonardo and youngster Tommy Meyer, and the Galaxy have a defense any MLS team can be jealous of.
And all of this is to say nothing of the improvement the Galaxy made in the net, replacing Josh Saunders, easily the weakest player in the starting XI for the 2012 Galaxy, with former Chelsea and Tottenham goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. While Cudicini has appeared rusty at times so far in 2013, once he gets a string of games under his belt, he will represent a marked improvement for the Galaxy defense.
The return of Donovan
While Landon Donovan’s missed penalty this past weekend was not exactly confidence inspiring, he has returned from his offseason sabbatical and is already back in the starting XI for the Galaxy.
And while Donovan is no longer a spring chicken, he has not overtly relied on his athleticism for years, instead contributing with his playmaking and goalscoring abilities.
When Donovan and Keane are on the field together, they form one of the most dangerous offensive duos in the league, making runs off of each other like the two top-class players that they are.
Once Keane returns from injury and Donovan returns to top form, the Galaxy will again have the most feared offense in the league.
The rest of the squad
In addition to the prowess of Gonzalez, DeLaGarza, Franklin, Donovan and Keane, the Galaxy have a host of veterans and youngsters who make them one of the deepest squads in the league.
Juninho has been a workhorse in the Galaxy midfield for the past three seasons, starting 99 games for the team in that time. Additionally, the Galaxy have Mike Magee, who currently leads the league with five goals and has a penchant for scoring big-time playoff goals.
The Galaxy have a number of talented youngsters in 18-year-old forward and U.S. youth international Jack McBean and new signing Gyasi Zardes, who scored 33 goals in his last two years at Cal State Bakersfield.
And that is to say nothing of 19-year-old phenom Jose Villarreal, who was so impressive recently with the U.S. U-20 team during Olympic qualifying.
To top it all off, the Galaxy are led by Hall of Fame coach, Bruce Arena, who has four MLS Cups and three MLS Coach of the Year awards to his name.
With no disrespect to some of the other top contenders such as Sporting KC, the Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas or the Montreal Impact, the Galaxy have too much talent and experience not to be the favored team to bring home the 2013 MLS Cup.
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