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Galaxy opens without stars
by Ridge Mahoney, February 18th, 2009 7AM



[PAN-PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIP] Opening without David Beckham and Landon Donovan and serving as host rather than as Hawaiian guest, the Los Angeles Galaxy begins its 2009 season Wednesday with semifinal play in the second Pan-Pacific Championship at Home Depot Center.

South Korean league champion Suwon Bluewings, Chinese champion Shandong Luneng and Nabisco Cup (Japan) winner Oita Trinita are at HDC for a pair of doubleheaders Wednesday and Saturday.

Suwon and Shandong open the tournament at 8:30 p.m. (ET), followed by the Galaxy and Oita at 11 p.m. The losers meet Saturday in the third-place match at 8:30 p.m. and the winners play in the championship match at 11 p.m. All games will be televised live on Fox Soccer Channel.

Donovan and Beckham may be absent, yet head coach Bruce Arena will use the PPC to get a look at some new players: midfielders Dema Kovalenko and Stefani Miglioranzi and forward Mike Magee have been acquired in offseason trades; SuperDraft picks Omar Gonzalez and A.J. Delagarza are vying for time in the back with Venezuelan trialist Leo Bautista; and Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts is also proving himself to new teammates.

Suwon is coached by former South Korean international Bum-Kun Cha, who still holds the national team record of 55 goals and played 308 Bundesliga matches for Darmstadt 98, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Bayer Leverkusen from 1978 to 1989. Goalie Woon-Jae Lee started for his country in the last two World Cups, and the club recently added Chinese defender Weifeng Li to its roster.

Shandong has been training and taking its lumps in Southern California the past week. It lost 2-0 to MLS expansion team Seattle, 5-1 to Chivas USA and then suffered an 8-0 defeat by Real Salt Lake in scrimmages. The Chinese Super League champion in two of the last three seasons includes Venezuelan defender Alejandro Cichero, whose brother Gabriel played for MLS Cup finalist New York last year.

Oita features two young Japanese internationals: Akihiro Ienaga (22) is on loan from defending PPC champion Gamba Osaka, and Masato Morishige (21) represented Japan at the 2008 Olympic Games soccer competition.

Gamba Osaka won last year's PPC in Hawaii. The Galaxy -- with Beckham but without an ailing Donovan -- lost its opener to Gamba Osaka, 1-0, and went on to finish third by beating Sydney FC of the Australian A-League, 2-1.

There is no Australian team in this year's PPC. The competition conflicts with the A-League's playoffs being played this week.


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