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
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
Chicago has lost three straight to the Galaxy and is 1-5-1
against them since 2009.