David Beckham's time with the Los Angeles Galaxy was an unqualified success, but now it's time for the most glamorous club in MLS to move on.
No team in league history has won three straight MLS Cups, and that's what the Galaxy are attempting to do without Beckham starting with Sunday's opener at home against the Chicago Fire.
The six seasons Los Angeles (16-12-6) enjoyed the services of Beckham have passed, with the club taking home the last two titles to tie D.C. United for the most in league history with four.
Beckham moved on after the Galaxy's 3-1 victory over Houston in last year's MLS Cup. The superstar is now playing for first-place Paris Saint-Germain in France.
Los Angeles always knew it could count on Beckham - the most recognizable player in the history of MLS - to help control the midfield. Now it must adjust.
"Not having David, we lose one of the best passers in the history of the game," coach Bruce Arena told the Galaxy's official website. "We're not going to change that. ... We won't pass as well. We won't be as dangerous in some ways when the ball turns over in our favor, but maybe collectively we can be better."
Beckham's departure would be mitigated if Landon Donovan was available. Donovan, who has a franchise-record 92 goals during eight seasons with the Galaxy, will not join the team until the last week of this month after the 30-year-old was apparently considering retirement.
Fortunately, Arena has other talented players at his disposal. Striker Robbie Keane had no problems in adjusting to his first MLS season in 2012 following a stellar career in Europe, as the Irish star was second in the league with 22 goals.
"If we continue to keep doing what we're doing and everyone stays healthy, we've got as good a chance as anybody," Keane said. "But we know it's going to be tough, as it always is."
Brazilians Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas will patrol the midfield and try to make up for Beckham's loss. The defense features a healthy Omar Gonzalez while Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini will take over as the starter.
There's far less change with Chicago (17-11-6), which brings 19 players back as it looks to reach the playoffs for the 13th time in 16 years. The Fire fell 2-1 to Houston in last year's Eastern Conference wild-card game.
One difference in 2013 will be the additions of MLS veterans Jeff Larentowicz and Joel Lindpere in the midfield. Blending in those newcomers was a primary focus in preseason.
"It was good for us to further understand each other and figure out how it's going to work together," Larentowicz said. "I think that we're coming along and we're definitely ready for Sunday."
The Fire should be solid in the back with veteran defenders Arne Friedrich and Gonzalo Segares joining reigning league Rookie of the Year in Austin Berry, and Sean Johnson remaining the goalkeeper.
Chicago has lost three straight to the Galaxy and is 1-5-1 against them since 2009.