Fire-Galaxy Preview

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.