By ADAM SERRANO
At this time last year, the Galaxy were a patchwork group, hoping to build off a last-place finish, but in 2010, the Galaxy head into the season with much the same lineup that came within one penalty kick of winning the MLS Cup.
Much like last season, Midfielder David Beckham won't be around for the first half of the year, but the Achilles injury suffered during his loan with AC Milan could wind up forcing him to miss much of the regular season.
Head coach Bruce Arena has brought in a trio of Brazilians on loan from Sao Paulo who look to add to the creative balance of the club.
Defense will once again be the strength of the Galaxy as Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez enters year two of his maturation process with defensive partner veteran Gregg Berhalter. While up front it will be up to Landon Donovan to help the Galaxy attack get off to a better start than in 2009.
Here's a look at the 2010 Los Angeles Galaxy:
2010 LOS ANGELES GALAXY
Players to Watch– Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle, Omar Gonzalez, Sean
Key Arrivals– Mike Stephens, Juninho, Leonardo, Alex Cazumba, Clint Mathis
Key Departures– Stefani Miglioranzi
Projected Lineup (New starters in bold)
——————–Mike Magee—————Edson Buddle——————–
Eddie Lewis———————-Juninho——————–Landon Donovan
Todd Dunivant—-Gregg Berhalter——–Omar Gonzalez——Sean Franklin
Biggest Question- Will the club's Brazilians adapt to MLS?
The biggest question around Home Depot Center has not been the return of Landon Donovan, but whether or not the club's three loanees from Sao Paulo will be successful. Each has competed with established players for a spot in the starting line up during their stint with the club.
The attacking midfielder Juninho has been the most impressive, linking up with the attack with superior passing ability and providing the creative spark that should make him an opening day starter. In addition, Leonardo and Alex Cazumba remain solid opitions in the back line. However, for all the praise, many on the club remain weary about language barrier that still exists between the three players and the rest of the team.
X-Factor- Edson Buddle. If the Galaxy are to return to MLS Cup in 2010, the key will be if someone can share the scoring burden with captain Landon Donovan. Much of that will fall to the shoulders of 28 year old Buddle who scored 15 goals in 2008, but only five in 2009.
Often accused as disinterested by his critics, Buddle needs a season to warrant his inclusion in this roster. Should the striker fail to succeed, the Galaxy may need their youngsters Tristen Bowen and Bryan Jordan to add to the attack.
Outlook- The club retains its solid defensive core backstopped by Jamaican Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts who along with his front four will keep the Galaxy competitive in every game.
What will determine whether not the team can get back to the championship will be the club's ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Bruce Arena's club will need support for Landon Donovan in the attacking third, look for this support to come from a host of characters from rookie Michael Stephens to veteran Clint Mathis, if the Galaxy can get the support, the club will be a serious threat for a championship.
If the club is unable to come up with support in attack, the Galaxy of 2010 may start the season much like last year, as a club that earns the single point instead of the full three. In addition, a congested schedule that includes three competitions could pull the Galaxy into a dogfight for playoff positions.