[MLS SPOTLIGHT] The Los Angeles Galaxy did what only two other MLS clubs have done and that's repeat as MLS champion. In a league where high turnover is
generally the rule rather than the exception, Bruce Arena, the Galaxy coach, managed to keep his team intact for its 2012 title defense. That won't be as easy
English star David Beckham won't return for 2013, and Swedish international Christian Wilhelmsson, brought in late in the 2012 season, won't be back, according to Arena.
The status of at least five other starters on the 2012 MLS Cup championship team is up in the air.
Landon Donovan says he wants to spend time with his family before committing to soccer in 2013. As it is, his contract will be up at the end of next season.
Omar Gonzalez's MVP performance in Saturday's title game has renewed speculation about his move abroad.
If that happened, it won't be like last winter when he went on loan to Nuremberg, hurt his knee in the first day of practice and was sidelined for half of the 2012 MLS season. Arena says Gonzalez won't be going on loan this winter.
As for the possibility of a transfer during the January window, “Omar Gonzalez is on our team, that’s how we’re preparing. We’re not worried about anything until that changes and right now he’s a member of our team.”
Brazilian midfielder Juninho, who set up Gonzalez's tying goal in the 3-1 win over Houston in the final, has played on loan from Sao Paulo for each of his three seasons with Los Angeles. At first, he wasn't expected back for 2012 but eventually returned.
Arena wants Juninho, ranked No. 1 among central midfielders by Soccer America, back in 2013. “We’ve been working on that for a while,” he said in a conference call with Los Angeles writers. “We’ll keep working on that, we’re hopeful that we can bring him back.”
Goalkeeper Josh Saunders and midfielder Mike Magee are both out of contract, but Arena said the Galaxy has made offers to both of them.
The four other starters on the 2012 MLS Cup team are expected back: right back Sean Franklin, rookie center back Tommy Meyer, left back Todd Dunivant and Irish striker Robbie Keane.
The only changes from the 2011 championship team were Meyer, who was starting in place of the injured A.J. DelaGarza, and Wilhelmsson who played on the right side of midfield, which allowed Donovan to move up front. (In last year's final, Adam Cristman started up front in place of the injured Chad Barrett. Cristman was released after the 2011 season, and Barrett was loaned to Norwegian club Valerenga midway through the 2012 season.)
Arena's ability to find and keep high-quality players at modest salaries has been key the Galaxy's enduring success in the face of the constraints it had to meet the salary cap with three Designated Players -- Beckham, Donovan and Keane -- on the roster.
Three MLS Cup starters made less than $100,000 -- Juninho was a steal at $65,625 -- while Dunivant ($146,750) and Magee ($126,635) were great values.
As for a replacement for Beckham, Arena would not comment on the possibility of Kaka coming to Los Angeles. He was clear about what the Galaxy could afford to pay.
“We can afford whatever Tim Leiweke and Phil Anschutz say we can afford," he said. "Those kinds of decisions really go up the ladder. Each situation as it comes along our way is evaluated."
How long that chain of command from Arena to Leiweke, the AEG president, to Anschutz, the AEG owner, lasts remain to be seen.
Anschutz put AEG up for sale this fall with the expectation that the sports and entertainment giant of which the Galaxy is just a small part could be sold for a figure in the $10 billion range.