Goal.com MLS Guidebook: The 2011 Los Angeles Galaxy

What went right?

With a league-best 18-7-5 record this past season, the Galaxy claimed their first Supporters' Shield title since 2002. The Galaxy one-upped their regular-season finish from 2009 in winning the regular-season Western Conference crown for the second consecutive year. Galaxy stars Edson Buddle (17 goals) and Landon Donovan (7 goals, 16 assists) had standout seasons and were joined on the league's Best XI squad by MLS Goalkeeper of the Year winner Donovan Ricketts and MLS Defender of the Year finalist Omar Gonzalez.

What went wrong?

Even though their regular-season record was better in 2010 than in 2009, the bottom line was not. The Galaxy failed to reach MLS Cup, despite the players' stated determination to reach the title game.

Through June, the Galaxy were hands-down the league's best, but from July on the club was plagued with defensive problems as the Galaxy picked up just two shutouts in their last 16 games. Their defensive problems were exposed in the Western Conference final against FC Dallas, when they were shredded apart for three goals in an epic collapse.

Biggest surprises?

Edson Buddle's 17 goals were surprising, given the question marks surrounding him before the start of the season. Buddle played so well, in fact, that he earned a ticket to the World Cup with the USA squad in the summer, though he only saw a few minutes of playing time in South Africa.

Brazilian pickup Juninho added some unexpected spark in the middle of the field as well and gave hope that the Galaxy will have a creative spark in the middle of the field for some time - provided the club extends his loan from Sao Paulo.

While on an extended loan to AC Milan, David Beckham tore his Achilles tendon in March, but surprisingly came back in time to play seven games down the stretch.

Biggest disappointments?

After picking up 10 shutouts in their first 14 games, the Galaxy's defense was unreliable for large stretches of games in the second of the season. The club's only shutouts after June came against New York (on Aug. 14) and Philadelphia (Oct. 7) as opponents figured out the Galaxy mid-stream. Additionally, the club's much-heralded depth, which carried the team in the early portion of the season, also let down the club in the playoffs as the Galaxy's options off the bench were alarmingly thin come the postseason.

Biggest need?

With Buddle gone to play in Germany's second division, the Galaxy badly need another forward who can score and take over some of the load. New acquisition Juan Pablo Angel is expected to score, of course, but he can't be the only threat, or opponents will find it easier to stop the team's attack. Improving depth across the board, particularly in central defense, is a close second.

LA will do better in 2011 if...

The team can spread the goals around to more attacking players. Buddle and Donovan combined for 24 goals in 2010, while the entire rest of the team had 19, with only one player tallying more than two goals.

LA will do worse in 2011 if...

Their depth does not improve significantly.The Galaxy are in the CONCACAF Champions League, which guarantees them of six additional games from August through October. Without more reliable players across the board, the Galaxy will not be properly equipped to handle such a workload.

Player to watch in 2011?

Juninho. This one comes with an asterisk, because players new to MLS often suffer through a sophomore slump in their second year of league action. If Juninho does beat this jinx, he could be a breakthrough player for the club. Quiet by nature, Juninho has not yet grown comfortable enough to take more risks during games. If Juninho gains confidence, he could blossom into a legitimate scoring threat, particularly if Beckham is around from the start of the season.

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