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PREVIEW: Restocked attack boosts Galaxy's prospects
by Ridge Mahoney, March 4th, 2014 1:58PM

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TAGS:  los angeles galaxy, mls

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[MLS 2014: Western Conference] The season in which the Galaxy struck a chord for human rights it hit a sour note on the field.

By itself, sending Mike Magee to Chicago in exchange for Robbie Rogers didn’t scuttle the Galaxy’s quest to win an unprecedented third straight MLS Cup. Yet fans wondered what might have happened if Magee, who’d scored six goals in 10 games prior to the trade and hit 15 more on his way to the MVP award, had been around to relieve a heavy offensive burden placed on Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. They combined for 26 goals and 20 assists -- nobody else, excluding Magee, netted more than four goals – and when fatigue hit late in the season, the goals dried up. The Galaxy scored just one goal in its last three regular-season games and one more in two playoff matches.

2013 LA Galaxy:
Record: 15-11-8
Finish: 3rd in Western Conference.
Playoffs: eliminated in conference semifinals.

To address that issue, in the offseason the Galaxy added 6-foot-5 Canadian striker Rob Friend, negotiated a loan deal with Fluminense to sign forward Samuel, and acquired Swedish midfielder Stefan Ishizaki along with former Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic.

Ishizaki is penciled in to start on one flank with Gyasi Zardes, who scored four goals as a rookie after signing a Homegrown contract, the primary candidate to man the other flank when Donovan plays up top or is away with the U.S. national team. As for Rogers, who battled fitness and injuries while notching one assist in 11 games after the trade, he has yet to prove he deserves a starting slot.

The notable offseason losses were veteran Sean Franklin in the Re-Entry Draft (he eventually signed with D.C. United) and midfielder Hector Jimenez (traded to Columbus). Former Galaxy and Rev keeper Matt Reis has signed on as goalkeeping coach, which should help Panamanian international Jaime Penedo -- who arrived last summer to replace the erratic Carlo Cudicini -- handle the rigorous demands of a long season.
 
Western Conference Preview:
Chivas USA | Colorado | FC Dallas

WHY BE OPTIMISTIC? The one-two punch of Donovan and Keane is the strongest in MLS but not every teammate can always read their intent, so the addition of experienced attackers can avoid drop-offs when the dynamic duo isn’t in top gear or unavailable. Marcelo Sarvas is coming off a career year of four goals and six assists; with another year of playing together, he and Juninho can be a dominant force.

Omar Gonzalez is among the best of the best at centerback, and Franklin’s departure offers A.J. DeLaGarza a regular spot at right back, where he played his first few seasons after he and Gonzalez were taken in the 2009 SuperDraft. Leonardo, Kofi Opare and Tommy Meyer are the options to play with Gonzalez or take his spot when he’s out.

Penedo got the feel of MLS last year while playing 11 games, including playoffs, and while he’s a bit small by league standards (6-foot, 160 pounds) he’s quick enough and experienced enough to inspire confidence. With a solid base of players in their mid-20s, the Galaxy has a squad ideally suited to survive the wear and tear of MLS.

WHY BE PESSIMISTIC? Left back Todd Dunivant, who was bothered by a sore hamstring in preseason, is 33 and one of six projected starters who are in that early-30s age range and will be carefully monitored. Donovan and Gonzalez will be absent for at least six weeks due to U.S. commitments and points dropped during this period will be costly. A huge hole would open up if Gonzalez is transferred after the World Cup. Penedo’s backups, Brian Perk and Brian Rowe, have played a combined total of nine MLS games. Until Rogers’ play impresses the fans and press, he’s a reminder of what might have been.

PROJECTED FINISH: 2nd-4th place. As usual, the Galaxy is a serious contender to take it all assuming it hits the final phase of the season fresher than it did last year.



PROJECTED LINEUP: 4-4-2
Goalkeeper:
18-Jaime Penedo (32)/Panama (2nd season)

Defenders:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
20-A.J. DeLaGarza (26)/USA (6th season)
4-Omar Gonzalez (25)/USA (6th season)
22-Leonardo (26)/Brazil/USA (5th season)
2-*Todd Dunivant (33)/USA (6th season)

Midfielders:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
10-Landon Donovan (31)/USA (10th season)
8-Marcelo Sarvas (32)/Brazil (3rd season)
19-Juninho (25)/Brazil (5th season)
11-Gyasi Zardes (22)/USA (2nd season)

Forwards:
NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
7-Robbie Keane (33)/Ireland (4th season)
16- Rob Friend (32)/Canada (1860 Munich)

First off the bench:

NO. PLAYER (AGE)/COUNTRY
6-Baggio Husidic (26)/USA (Hammarby)
24-Stefan Ishizaki (31)/Sweden (Elfsborg)
26-James Riley (31)/USA (D.C. United)
9-*Samuel (23)/Brazil (Fluminense)
LA Galaxy: complete roster.

Note:
returning players in bold.
*second stint with club.
**on loan.

MARCH SCHEDULE:
March 8: Real Salt Lake, 10:30 pm ET
March 12:
Tijuana, 10 pm ET (Fox Sports Plus)
March 18:
at Tijuana, 10 pm ET (Fox Sports 2)
March 22:
at Real Salt Lake, 4 pm ET (NBCSN)
LA Galaxy: complete schedule


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