Sunday, March 13, 2011
GALAXY 2011: Three big questions
By Scott French
1. WILL A FULL SEASON OF DAVID BECKHAM MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
It should. The English superstar, who will be 36 in May and is in the final year of his contract, has made a big impression with the Galaxy -- on his teammates, certainly, and on discerning fans and observers, too -- since all the fallout following publication of The Beckham Experiment in July 2009. He was superb down the stretch in 2009 and made a far greater contribution last season than he should have coming off the Achilles' tendon tear. Beckham brings passion, is an intense competitor and was taught very young that only trophies matter, and he doesn't want to leave L.A. without one.
2. HOW GOOD IS THIS TEAM?
As Real Salt Lake showed everyone in 2009 and the Colorado Rapids proved again last year, anyone can win the MLS Cup title -- build a decent lineup and get hot at the right time, and riches might arrive. Hey, that's how the Galaxy won their second league championship, in 2005. This team has far more talent than that -- only Real Salt Lake, maybe New York, can rival L.A. on paper. There's good chemistry (common among Bruce Arena's teams), the back five and midfield return intact from last year's Supporters' Shield winner, and the best striker in MLS over the past four years is positioned up front. Here are three ifs -- if team defense is a strength, as it was at the start and finish last season; if they don't run out of steam, as they did in the playoffs; and if they can contend with the speediest teams, especially Colorado -- that could determine whether the Galaxy's campaign ends in celebration or disappointment.
3. DOES SUCCESS REQUIRE THE MLS CUP TITLE?
For most Galaxy fans, and most followers of Major League Soccer, the answer is yes. The MLS Cup champ is the team that's remembered, regardless of how it got there. But, as Landon Donovan points out, the Supporters' Shield -- it goes to the side with the best regular-season record -- is tougher to win and a greater accomplishment, and in much of the world, including Europe's big leagues, it would signify the league championship. To capture back-to-back Shields, as D.C. United did in 2006-07 and Columbus in 2008-09, would be a tremendous achievement, and the season would have to be viewed as successful, MLS Cup or not, if accompanied by a quarterfinal berth next year in the CONCACAF Champions League.