The Los Angeles Galaxy's 2010 quest for the MLS Cup ended at the Home Depot Center, where they fell to FC Dallas in the Western Conference Championship to the tune of 3-0. The bitter taste lingered in the lips of Bruce Arena's club, and it was the bitterness that drives this team for a big season in 2011.
They begin their Major League Soccer campaign on Mar. 15 at Qwest Field against an opponent that they have been for the most part successful against, the Seattle Sounders.
The Galaxy will rely on the power trio of team captain Landon Donovan, forward Juan Pablo Angel and midfielder David Beckham to establish scoring continuity after Edson Buddle took a chance overseas.
Angel scored 13 goals for the New York Red Bulls last season. Donovan finished last year with the most assists, recording 16. Beckham only returned to the pitch in September of 2010 after suffering a torn Achilles. Chad Barrett adds scoring depth to this combination.
Newcomers Miguel Lopez and Paolo Cardozo have impressed the coaching staff during preseason. Watch for these two Argentineans to hone their potential in the midfield, taking slack off Chris Birchall and Mike Magee.
Defensively, the Galaxy will need a solid performance from the back four of A.J. DeLaGarza, Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin and Todd Dunivant. Goalkeeper of the Year Donovan Ricketts returns, as well as backup Josh Saunders.
Last season, Ricketts finished with an 18-7-4 record and a 0.90 goals against average to go with 11 shutouts.
Los Angeles finished 18-7-5 (59 points) to win their third MLS Supporters' Shield.
Sigi Schmid's Sounders, the two-time defending U.S. Open Cup Champions, finished 14-10-6 (48 points) and were eliminated in the Western Conference Semifinals by LA last season.
Returning to the fold for Seattle are forwards Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo and Steve Zakuani. Montero recorded 10 goals and 10 assists last year while Zakuani added 10 more to pace the Sounders.
After suffering a season-ending injury last season, Colombian forward Jhon Kennedy Hurtado will look to make amends against the G's.
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller finished 2010 with a 14-10-5 record, a 1.15 GAA and 11 shutouts.
If the likes of midfielders Osvaldo Alonso and Alvaro Fernandez can feed the ball to Seattle's potent trio of attackers, the futility against the Galaxy may end on MLS FirstKick 2011.
Defensively, Leo Gonzalez, James Riley, Tyson Wahl and Patrick Ianni may have a difficult assignment in breaking down Angel, Beckham and Donovan.
The Galaxy's only preseason contest came against Club Tijuana, which was a 2-2 draw before the match was decided on penalties, a 4-3 defeat for LA. The G's will look to get back on the winning track and end a three-match losing streak dating back to the Dallas defeat last season which includes a friendly defeat to Newcastle Jets in November.
The winless streak will end, but the Galaxy will find this season to be a bit tougher than meets the eye. A draw should kick things off for LA and Seattle.
Los Angeles Galaxy 2, Seattle Sounders 2