A Landon Donovan missed penalty kick in the shootout prevented the Los Angeles Galaxy from winning the MLS Cup in 2009.
For the regular season and playoff Western Conference champions, it may have been just the beginning of more disappointment for the club.
David Beckham, the team’s designated player and the man media go in a frenzy over, will miss six months—two more additional months than he would have missed after his loan to AC Milan and a trip to the World Cup with England were up—with a torn Achilles tendon suffered in a Serie A match against Chievo Verona.
Missing Beckham is a two-fold problem.
He obviously is a talented player that really helps the team play at its best. Known for his pinpoint bending crosses and shots, Beckham has been very good in transition from defense to offense and providing great service to the forwards.
Although the Galaxy have played well without him in the past, when Beckham returned from loan last season he really pushed the Galaxy over the edge and made them MLS Cup contenders.
The second issue is what kind of fan support will they receive now?
Beckham was a huge draw for the team, both home and away, and generated a lot of income for the franchise. Without him, will the fans still come out to the games? Will Los Angeles have any interest at all in the team, especially if they start to struggle?
The Galaxy’s most important player, Landon Donovan, will also miss a month of the season for the World Cup.
After a successful loan stint at Everton this offseason and if he continues his solid play on the pitch throughout the sport's biggest stage, he may be ready to make a permanent move overseas.
With the threat of losing the team's two most valuable players, the Galaxy could be in danger of free-falling down the standings.
However, the Galaxy does have arguably the greatest American soccer coach in history in Bruce Arena. He's had success with the U.S. Men's National Team and has won MLS Cups with D.C. United as well as bringing the Galaxy there last year.
He's done so by building a roster of "his players", guys he's worked with before and has a good rapport with.
Since coming to Los Angeles, Arena has brought in fullbacks Todd Dunivant and U.S. international Gregg Berhalter to solidify a terrible defense, tenacious midfielder Dema Kovalenko, former U.S. international midfielders Eddie Lewis and Tony Sanneh, Mike Magee and Clint Mathis, both of whom Arena coached in New York, and tenacious midfielder Dema Kovalenko who played for Arena in both D.C. and New York.
All these players are veteran players that know how to win, how to win with Arena's coaching and playing style, and can tutor the younger players. All these traits are important to help cultivate a winning environment.
Speaking of the young players, the Galaxy has struck gold the past couple of years in the draft.
In 2008 the Galaxy selected defender Sean Franklin out of Cal-State Northridge with the fourth overall pick. He played in 27 of the team's 30 league games and was named the Galaxy's Defender of the Year and MLS Rookie of the Year. In 2009 he started all four game of Los Angeles' playoff run.
In 2009 the Galaxy drafted Omar Gonzalez out of Maryland third overall. Standing at a towering 6'5", the rookie center-back started all 30 league games, played every minute of all four playoff games, and was also named MLS Rookie of the Year. This winter he was called into the United States training camp and impressed throughout his workouts.
The Galaxy hope to continue that trend with first rounder and number 16 overall pick Michael Stephens.
The midfielder out of UCLA has had an impressive preseason, scoring a pair of goals in scrimmages against the Bruins, and set up the game-winning goal in a friendly against Puntarenas. Stephens has said that he still needs to work on adjusting to the speed and physicality of the league, but he looks like he can be a solid contributor this season. His ability to play as a center midfielder or out on the wings should come in handy with the absences of Donovan and Beckham.
Arena has managed to build a solid core of role players and improving young studs around the talented but extremely expensive Beckham and Donovan. The big question that will be answered this season is how will they perform without the assistance of the Galaxy's two marquee players?
If no one is ready to step up, it could turn into another long season for Los Angeles.