Video preview: Galaxy-Toronto FC CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg from Carson

Staff Writer Phil Collin will have a full run-down of Wednesday’s game at Home Depot Center a little later, but here’s an MLS-produced video preview with interviews with the Galaxy’s Todd Dunivant, Juninho, Landon Donovan and Bruce Arena courtesy of SendtoNews/MLS and the Galaxy.

The Galaxy and Toronto tied 2-2 in the first leg last Wednesday in Canada. As of this writing, tickets to the 7 p.m. game at 7,500-capacity Home Depot Center (for this game only) remain available.

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Weekly Column: MLS opening weekend


Monday night’s Portland Timbers-Phildelphia Union contest, played on national TV before a wild capacity crowd undaunted by a driving rainstorm provided a fitting culmination to an opening Major League Soccer weekend of action that generally bodes well for the coming year.

I spent much of the weekend glued to the MLS Direct Kick free trial and trying out the new Storify app for the iPad as I followed the weekend action.

Some observations on the opening weekend are here in today’s regular Tuesday column.

Also, two local pros are edging closer to playing in the London Olympics.

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MLS 2012 Team by Team Capsules


What’s with the influx of Columbians Colombians? Is there really an Albanian designated player.? And where is former Galaxy defender Chris Albright now? Your MLS guide to the offseason ins and outs and comings and goings is all here.

I’ll be here all weekend with a kick by kick guide to the opening of the MLS season, which includes two games in Carson with the Galaxy playing Saturday and Chivas USA Sunday at Home Depot Center.

Join me then, but for now here’s a look at the 19 MLS teams as they head into the 2012 season, in alphabetical order, by the Associated Press:


LAST YEAR: 9-9-16 (11th overall, sixth in Eastern Conference)
WHO’S BACK: Coach/GM Frank Klopas, D Jalil Anibaba, F Orr Barouch, M Corben Bone, D Dan Gargan, D Cory Gibbs, M Sebastian Grazzini, G Sean Johnson, M Steven Kinney, F Patrick Nyarko, F Dominic Oduro, M Daniel Paladini, M Pavel Pardo, M Logan Pause, M Victor Pineda, M Marco Poppa, D Gonzalo Segares.
WHO’S GONE: F Diego Chaves, D Yamith Cuesta, G Jon Conway, G Alec Dufty, F Gabriel Ferrari, M/F Baggio Husidic, F Cristian Nazarit.
WHO’S NEW: D Austin Berry, F Kheli Dube, D Arne Friedrich, D Hunter Jumper, F Lucky Mkosana, G Jay Nolly, F Federico Puppo, M Rafael Robayo, G Paolo Tomaghi, M Tony Walls.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Fire must build on last year’s 7-2-3 finish following the dismissal of coach Carlos de los Cobos. Klopas decided to stay on as coach after the push nearly earned the team a playoff berth. Despite 11 new players, the core of last year’s team returns, beginning with Oduro. Seven of his career-high 12 goals came after midfielders Grazzini and Pardo arrived to create the attacking side Klopas wanted. Barouch may replace Nyarko as Oduro ‘s fellow forward, with Uruguayan import Puppo also fighting for playing time. There’s similar depth in midfield with the addition of Rafael Robayo, so much that captain Logan Pause might\ be on the sidelines unless he’s shifted to defense. There, late signee Arne Friedrich, a 32-year-old German with experience in the last two World Cups, bolsters a stingy defense. The largest question is how Jay Nolly will fare in goal if Sean Johnson, who scored seven shutouts in 28 starts, is called up to the U.S. Olympic team during the heart of the season.


LAST YEAR: 8-14-12 (15th overall and eighth place in Western Conference)
WHO’S BACK: Coach Robin Fraser, G Dan Kennedy, M Nick LaBrocca, D Heath Pearce, F Juan Pablo Angel, M Michael Lahoud, D Ante Jazic, M/D Jorge Villafaa (formerly Flores).
WHO’S GONE: F Justin Braun, D Zarek Valentin, M Paulo Nagamura, M Marcos Mondaini, F Victor Estupinan, G Zach Thornton, D Michael Umaa, D Andrew Boyens, F Chris Cortez.
WHO’S NEW: M Oswaldo Minda, M/F Miller Bolaos, D John Alexander Valencia, F Cesar Romero, F Casey Townsend, D James Riley, M Ryan Smith M Pete Vagenas.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Chivas USA is seeking the focus and composure that was lacking in Fraser’s first season when the Rojiblancos faded badly down the stretch to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. After struggling to finish games last season, Fraser revamped his squad with experienced players such as Ecuador’s international midfielder Oswaldo Minda and veteran Colombian defender John Alexander Valencia. A full season of 36-year-old forward Juan Pablo Angel and dynamic midfielder Ryan Smith and Miller Bolaos are expected to bring a new dimension to Chivas USA’s attack. The defense remains a work in progress. Valencia and MLS veteran James Riley will be expected to bring leadership to a back four that was mistake-prone at times last season. Dan Kennedy was named goalkeeper of the year last season and likely will need to perform once more as the defense looks to gel. For Chivas USA to qualify for the playoffs for the first time under Fraser, the team’s newest additions will need to settle into the squad quickly and help the team get off to a fast start.


Will Chivas USA’s prayers for a winning season be answered? Former Galaxy midfielder Pete Vagenas, who has joined Chivas USA, hopes so (Photo by Staff Photographer Steve McCrank).


LAST YEAR: 12-9-13 (Tied for 6th place overall, fifth in Western Conference).
WHO’S BACK: M Jeff Larentowicz, F Conor Casey, D Marvell Wynne, G Matt Pickens, F Omar Cummings, M Jamie Smith, D Drew Moor, M Brian Mullan, M/D Pablo Mastroeni, D Kosuke Kimura, D Tyrone Marshall.
WHO’S GONE: M Sanna Nyassi, F Caleb Folan, F Macoumba Kandji, coach Gary Smith.
WHO’S NEW: Coach Oscar Pareja, D Luis Zapata, M Jaime Castrillon, M Kohei Yamada, M Martin Rivero, M Tony Cascio.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Rapids made significant changes after the 2011 season as Tim Hinchey was named president and Pareja brought in to run the show on the field. Through all the changes, the nucleus of this squad remains similar to the one that captured the MLS championship in 2010 — even if it’s banged up right now. Casey may be sidelined three to four more weeks as he recovers from a torn Achilles that ended his season early last year. Smith will be missing in the midfield for at least three months as he recuperates from a torn ACL, and defender Anthony Wallace might not be available until the end of the season as he recover from a recently torn Achilles. Pareja will install more of an attacking-style offense as he steps in for Smith. The acquisitions of Rivero, Zapata and Castrillon will only bolster the Rapids, who finished in the middle of the pack in goal scoring last season. Mastroeni, one of the team’s mainstays, will return for an 11th season.


LAST YEAR: 13-13-8 (ninth place overall, fourth in Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: Coach Robert Warzycha, D Chad Marshall, M/F Eddie Gaven, D Danny O’Rourke, GK William Hesmer, F Emilio Renteria, M Dilly Duka.
WHO’S GONE: F Andres Mendosa, F Robbie Rogers, M Emmanuel Ekpo.
WHO’S NEW: F/M Milovan Mirosevic, M/F Ethan Finlay, F Ben Speas, F Olman Vargas, M Kirk Urso.
WHAT’S AHEAD: It may be difficult making up for the loss of Mendoza. The Peruvian “El Condor” had 13 goals in 29 games last year for the Crew. In addition, the loss of Rogers and Ekpo also hurts. But the club believes it found a quality replacement when it signed Mirosevic. It had been seeking a field general to control the tempo and dictate pace. Coach Robert Warzycha is confident the smart, 31-year-old Chilean — a captain on his previous team — will provide leadership. Also, the Crew is hoping to make up for the loss of one big goal-scorer with the addition or improvement of several players who contribute to the offense. The club will implement a slightly different formation from last year, when it had forwards Mendoza and Renteria up top. Now the attack will be built around Mirosevic, an attacking midfielder and Renteria. The Crew still hopes to sign a designated player to provide some goals but might have to wait until summertime to fill that spot and provide an immediate impact.


LAST YEAR: 9-13-12 (13th place overall, seventh in Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: G Bill Hamid, D Daniel Woolard, D Brandon McDonald, D Dejan Jakovic, D Ethan White, D Perry Kitchen, M Andy Najar, M Branko Boskovic, M-F Chris Pontius, F Dwayne De Rosario.
WHO’S GONE: F Charlie Davies, M Clyde Simms, F Santino Quaranta, D Marc Burch, M Brandon Barklage, F Blake Brettschneider, G Steve Cronin, D Devon McTavish, F Joseph Ngwenya, D Jed Zayner.
WHO’S NEW: F Hamdi Salihi, D Emiliano Dudar, D Robbie Russell, M Danny Cruz, M Nick DeLeon, M Marcelo Saragosa, F Maicon Santos.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The four MLS trophies are starting to look dated for a franchise that was once the flapship operation of the league. United have missed the playoffs four straight years and have been repeatedly frustrated in their quest for a new stadium. They’re stuck in antiquated RFK, while most of the league kicks back in more revenue-friendly, soccer-specific facilities. There is genuine hope for a revival on the field, though, with Albanian striker Salihi signed to team up front with league MVP De Rosario. Hamid is a rising star, as Najar, Kitchen and Pontius likewise give the roster plenty of youthful promise. More is needed from Boskovic, a disappointment last season, and the additions of Dudar and Russell will help a back line that has been too porous in recent seasons. Ben Olsen, in his second full season as coach, should have a team that, if it stays healthy, is ready to contend for the postseason.


LAST YEAR: 15-11-7 (fourth place overall, fourth in Western Conference, lost in wild card round to New York)
WHO’S BACK: Coach Schellas Hyndman, F-M Brek Shea, F David Ferreira, D George John, D/M Daniel Hernandez, F Fabian Castillo, D Ugo Ihemelu, M Andrew Jacobson, D Zach Loyd, D. Jair Benitez, M Ricardo Villar, GK Kevin Hartman.
WHO’S GONE: D Edson Edward, D Jeremy Hall, F Maykel Galindo, F Maicon Santos, M Marvin Chavez, M Jackson.
WHO’S NEW: F Blas Perez, D Hernan Pertuz, D Matt Hedges, D Carlos
WHAT’S AHEAD: Ferreira, the 2010 league MVP, is back after a broken left ankle last year limited him to six games. FC Dallas had an nine-game unbeaten streak after Ferriera got hurt but couldn’t keep up that pace down the stretch. After losing in the MLS Cup in 2010, FC Dallas last season didn’t make it past the wild card round with a loss to New York, the opponent in their season opener Sunday. The big question is will Ferreira regain at least some of his MVP form and stay healthy. He goes into the season dealing with a sore Achilles tendon. Panamanian striker Perez could add some scoring punch. Dallas boasts a talented group of starters including Shea and Ferreira, but many of the reserves have little or no MLS experience. Hartman is 37 and
coming off a career-best 13 shutouts last season. U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Fernando Clavijo, the Uruguayan native who played 61 times for the U.S. national team and
former coach of the Colorado Rapids, was added this week as the team’s new technical


LAST YEAR: 12-9-13 (seventh place overall, second in Eastern
WHO’S BACK: Coach Dominic Kinnear, D Bobby Boswell, F Will Bruin, MF Geoff Cameron, F Brian Ching, MF Brad Davis, GK Tally Hall, MF Colin Clark, F Cam Weaver.
WHO’S GONE: F Carlo Costly, MF Danny Cruz, F Jason Garey, MF Francisco Navas Cobo, D Eddie Robinson.
WHO’S NEW: F Macoumba Kandji, F Colin Rolfe, MF Nathan Sturgis, GK Erich Marscheider.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Davis led MLS in assists last season (16), but no Houston player tallied more than five goals in 2011. So the Dynamo are still looking for a go-to scorer, even with the return of the 33-year-old Ching, the franchise’s career leader in goals (77). Davis tore his right quadriceps in the semifinal match against Kansas City and sat out Houston’s 1-0 loss to the Galaxy in MLS Cup. The Dynamo will play their first seven games on the road, where they went 2-6-9 last season, before moving into their new downtown stadium in May. But they know the formula to turn around a rugged beginning. They shrugged off a 3-5-6 start last season and were unbeaten in the final two months of the season before the loss to the Galaxy in the final. This summer, the Dynamo will compete in the CONCACAF Champions League, another potential roadblock to a big MLS season.


LAST YEAR: 13-9-12 (fifth place overall, first in Eastern Conference)
WHO’S BACK: D Matt Besler, F Teal Bunbury, D Julio Cesar, D Aurelien Collin, M Birahim Diop, D Kevin Ellis, M Roger Espinoza, D Michael Harrington, M Peterson Joseph, F Kei Kamara, G Jon Kempin, D Chance Myers, G Jimmy Nielsen, D Lawrence Olum, F Soony Saad, D Seth Sinovic, F CJ Sapong, M Konrad Warzycha, M Graham Zusi, M Luke Sassano, G Eric Kronberg, D Korede Aiyegbusi.
WHO’S GONE: F Omar Bravo, M Davy Arnaud, M Jeferson, D Daneil Cyrus, Milos Stojcev, Craig Rocastle, Scott Lorenz.
WHO’S NEW: M Bobby Convey, F Dom Dwyer, D Cyprian Hedrick, M Paulo Nagamura, M Michael Thomas, F Jacob Peterson.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Sporting Kansas City got off to a miserable start last season, losing six of its first eight matches, before rallying to first in the Eastern Conference. The about-face under coach Peter Vermes coincided with the franchise opening Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., one of the premier facilities in MLS. Young players such as Teal Bunbury, Graham Zusi and CJ Sapong emerged as future stars last season, though Sporting Kansas City may lose a couple of them to international duty over the summer. Still, the pieces that return — along with newcomers
such as Bobby Convey and rookie Dom Dwyer — should make Sporting KC the
conference favorite. The team opens at DC United on Saturday before two straight at home, and getting off to a strong start is imperative after the struggles they had early last season.


LAST YEAR: 19-5-10 (1st place overall, 1st in Western Conference)
WHO’S BACK: M David Beckham, M Landon Donovan, F Robbie Keane, D Omar Gonzalez, D A.J. DeLaGarza, G Josh Saunders, F Chad Barrett, F Mike Magee, D Sean Franklin, M Juninho, F Adam Cristman, F Jack McBean, D Leonardo, D Todd Dunivant, M Bryan Jordan, M Michael Stephens, M Paolo Cardozo, coach Bruce Arena.
WHO’S GONE: M Miguel Lopez, M Chris Birchall, D Gregg Berhalter, M Jovan Kirovski, D Frankie Hejduk, G Donovan Ricketts.
WHO’S NEW: F Edson Buddle, D Andrew Boyens, D Tommy Meyer, D Bryan Gaul G Bill Gaudette M Kyle Nakazawa.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Beckham and his Galaxy aren’t satisfied with last season’s spectacular run to their second straight Supporters’ Shield and Beckham’s first MLS Cup championship. Beckham is back in Hollywood on a two-year contract, and every significant contributor joined him in returning to MLS’ best team throughout 2011 — even Juninho, the talented Brazilian midfielder who appeared to be headed home to Sao Paulo. The Galaxy actually improved up front with the return of Buddle, the prolific goal-scorer who left Los Angeles in late 2010 for a year in Germany’s second division. Beckham, Donovan, Keane and Buddle form arguably the most talented front line in MLS history, even if all four miss a bit of MLS action whileon international duty. Yet the Galaxy won their title as the league’s best defensive team last season, and they could struggle early (if this week’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal is any indication) to adjust to the absence of MLS’ Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez, who’s out indefinitely after surgery on a torn ligament in his left knee. Arena should figure out a way to replace Gonzalez as the Galaxy chase CONCACAF success and their third straight regular-season title.

59021-bigmanin town.jpg

Big man in town: David Beckham, seen here shaking hands with Laker Pau Gasol, couldn’t leave Southern California and head for a multimillion dollar offer in France – or at least his kids didn’t want to go (AP Photo).


LAST YEAR: This is the club’s first season in MLS (will play in East)
WHO’S BACK: (holdovers from final season in North American Soccer League): G Evan Bush, G Greg Sutton, D Hassoun Camara, M Sinisa Ubiparipovic, F Miguel Montano, F Eduardo Sebrango
WHO’S NEW: Coach Jesse Marsch, assistant coach Mike Sorber, G Donovan Ricketts, D Jeb Brovsky, D Matteo Ferrari, D Geinier Garcia, D Josh Gardner, D Nelson Rivas, D Shavar Thomas, D Zarek Valentin, D Tyson Wahl, M Bryan Arguez, M Davy Arnaud, M Patrice Bernier, M Justin Mapp, M Calum Mallace, M Felipe Martins, M Lamar Neagle, M Sanna Nyassi, M Collen Warner, F Justin Braun, F Mike Fucito, F Evan James, F Andrew Wenger
WHAT’S AHEAD: After 18 years in the minor leagues, the Impact step up to the first division. Their first five home games are at Olympic Stadium, before they move back to renovated and expanded (20,341 seats) Saputo Stadium on June 16. Eight of the first 11 league games are on the road, complicating an expansion season that figures to be rocky. Arnaud was picked as captain. Ricketts, who lost his Galaxy roster spot because of salary cap implications is the starting goalkeeper. Despite offseason rumors, the Impact have not brought in any designated players.


LAST YEAR: 5-18-13 (9th place, last in Eastern Conference).
WHO’S BACK: MF Shalrie Joseph, MF Benny Feilhaber, GK Matt Reis, MF Sainey Nyassi. MF Stephen McCarthy, MF-D Chris Tierney, D Darrius Barnes, D Kevin Alston, F Diego Fagundez.
WHO’S GONE: Coach Stevie Nicol, MF Mark Perovic, MF Ousmane Dabo, F Rajko Lekic, D Franco Coria, F Kheli Dube, F Kenny Mansally, F Milton Caraglio, F Monsef Zerka, MF Pat Phelan, D Ryan Cochrane.
WHO’S NEW: Coach Jay Heaps, D John Lozano, D Tyler Polak, F Kelyn Rowe, F Sene, MF Clyde Simms, F Fernando Cardenas, F Blake Brettschneider, F Jose Moreno.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Revolution need to score more goals (38, third lowest in MLS last season) and allow fewer (58, second most in MLS). Revs had a nine-match (0-6-3) winless streak at midseason and a seven-match (0-6-1) winless streak to end season. New head coach and 11-year MLS veteran (nine with New England) Jay Heaps said “we’re trying to get better (position) one through 28.” Team is hoping that Bayern Munich reserve team member Sene, MF-F Fernando Cardenas (on loan, America deCali, Colombia), F Kelyn Rowe (first-round draft pick, 46 points in 46 matches over two seasons at UCLA) and F Jose Moreno (on loan, Once Caladas, Colombia) can provide some spark up front for a team that scored one or zero goals in 24 matches. Thirty-seven year-old GK Matt Reis (limited to 41 starts over the past two seasons due to injury), 34-year old All-MLS MF Shalrie Joseph (eight goals, one assists) and 27-year old U.S. international Benny Feilhaber (11 points with four goals in 23 matches) form the foundation. Over 10 seasons as a coach, Nicol often employed a 3-5-2 formation, but Heaps may go with a 4-4-2, hoping that Feilhaber’s short passing game, Joseph’s
steadiness and MF Chris Tierney converted to a left back can solidify a team in transition.


LAST YEAR: 10-8-16 (10th overall, fifth in East), lost to Los Angeles in
conference semifinals.
WHO’S BACK: D Stephen Keel, D Roy Miller, D-M Teemu Tainio, M Mehdi Ballouchy, M Joel Lindpere, M Rafa Marquez, M Dax McCarty, M-F Dane Richards, M Jan Gunnar Solli, F Juan Agudelo, F Thierry Henry, F Corey Hertzog, F Luke Rodgers (if his visa is approved and it’s not yet).
WHO’S GONE: G Bouna Coundoul, G Alex Horwath, G Frank Rost, D Chris Albright, D Sacir Hot, D Mychal Jones, D Tyler Lassiter, D Carlos Mendes, D Tim Ream, D Teddy Schneider, M Marcos Paullo, M John Rooney, M Matt Kassel
WHO’S NEW: G Ryan Meara, G Jeremy Vuolo, D Jonathan Borrajo, D Wilman Conde, D Markus Holgersson, D Connor Lade, D Tyler Ruthven, D Mike Volk, M Brandon Barklage, M Christian Barreiro, M Victor Palsson, M Nate Polak, F Jose Angulo, F Jhonny Arteaga, F Kenny Cooper
WHAT’S AHEAD: After a season of turmoil — Marquez criticized teammates, then was suspended for three games during the playoffs for throwing a ball at the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan — the Red Bulls are back with the high-priced duo of Marquez and Henry, who was more energized during his two-month loan to Arsenal than he was in New York. All five goalkeepers used last year have moved on, with Vuolo joining from Oulu in Finland’s second division and Meara from Fordham University. After their 15th consecutive season without a title, the Red Bulls churned their roster (again), keeping 13 players and replacing 15. An already shaky defense lost Tim Ream, who was
sold to Bolton, and coach Hans Backe says Marquez will be in midfield. Keel remains on the back four, with Conde and Holgersson the most high-profile of the defensive
additions. Agudelo, who didn’t contribute much last year, could miss substantial time this season because of Olympic qualifying and, if the U.S. makes it, the London Games.


LAST YEAR: 11-8-15 (eighth place overall, third in Eastern Conference)
WHO’S BACK: Coach Peter Nowak, M Freddy Adu, F Danny Mwanga, M Brian Carroll, D Sheanon Williams, D Danny Califf
WHO’S GONE: F Sebastien Le Toux, G Faryd Mondragon, M Justin Mapp, M Kyle Nakazawa M Ryan Richter, F Veljko Paunovic
WHO’S NEW: M Gabriel Gomez, F Lionard Pajoy, F Josue Martnez, D Porfirio Lopez
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Philadelphia Union made a big impact in just their second MLS season, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Union were quickly swept by the Houston Dynamo but return with championship expectations this season. Coach Peter Nowak wasn’t content to bring back the same group of stars that made the Union so successful. He shocklingly traded leading scorer Sebastien Le
Toux, angering fans, and granted goalie Faryd Mondragon his release so the veteran could end his playing days at home in South America. The Union will rely
more on an all-around scoring attack this season and hope a full season from Freddy Adu, once America’s soccer child prodigy, will give the offense a boost


LAST YEAR: 11-14-9 (12th place overall, sixth in Western Conference.
WHO’S BACK: GK Troy Perkins, MF Jack Jewsbury, F Bright Dike, F Jorge Perlaza, MF Diego Chara, MF Kalif Alhassan, F/MF Darlington Nagbe, D Futty Danso, D David Horst.
WHO’S GONE: F Kenny Cooper
WHO’S NEW: F Kris Boyd, MF Franck Songo’o.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Portland sheds its expansion label and enters its second year looking for consistency. Although the Timbers have a great home field advantage at Jeld-Wen Field because of a wildly enthusiastic fan base, the team was 2-9-6 on the road. Portland hopes to see improvement with the help of striker Kris Boyd, the Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading scorer. The 28-year-old had 164 goals in 296 appearances in the SPL with Kilmarnock and Rangers. He was that league’s top scorer for four seasons, but his career was tailing off in Turkey. They are also expecting big things from addition Franck Songo’o of Cameroon, who played last season for Spanish side Albacete. The 24-year-old has spent time in the top Spanish league and the Premier League but was still awaiting his visa to join the Timbers. The team was hurt during preseason training when defender Futty Danso fractured a bone in his left foot. Danso is expected to miss four to six weeks. Because of demand, the Timbers increased stadium capacity from about 18,600 to more than 20,000.


LAST YEAR: 15-11-8 (Third place overall, third in Western Conference).
WHO’S BACK: MF Javier Morales, F Alvaro Saborio, MF Kyle Beckerman, D Jamison Olave, GK Nick Rimando, D Nat Borchers.
WHO’S GONE: MF Collen Warner, D Robbie Russell, MF Andy Williams.
WHO’S NEW: MF Enzo Martinez, D Diogo de Almeida, D Terukazu Tanaka.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The key will be how dynamic Argentine playmaker Javier Morales has recovered from a broken ankle. There were questions about his strength when he returned at the end of the season. Morales had offseason surgery to remove bone spurs unrelated to his ankle and is not expected to be ready in time for Real Salt Lake’s opener against the defending champion Galaxy in Carson. He’s not the only who will miss the start of the season. Forward Alvaro Saborio and defender Nat Borchers likely will sit because of offseason surgery, and defender Jamison Olave is questionable with a groin injury. That means fans could get a good look at rookie Enzo Martinez, a midfielder out of North Carolina, and 18-year-old Luis Gil. Early last season RSL went all the way to the CONCACAF Champions League finals but fell to Monterrey. In the MLS
playoffs they beat Seattle in the first round but lost to the Galaxy in the Western Conference final.


LAST YEAR: 8-12-14 (14th place overall, seventh in Western Conference).
WHO’S BACK: Coach Frank Yallop, F Steven Lenhart, F Chris Wondolowski, M Simon Dawkins, F Alan Gordon, GK Jon Busch.
WHO’S GONE: D Bobby Burling, FW Scott Sealy, D Nana Attakora, F Andre Luiz, GK Andrew Weber.
WHO’S NEW: M Tressor Moreno, D Victor Bernardez, M Marvin Chavez, F Sercan Guvenisik, M Texan Shea Salinas.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Earthquakes created some rumbles with a series of offseason additions, notably midfielders Tressor Moreno of Colombia and Victor Bernardez of Honduras. Both have never played in MLS, and how they make the transition could determine whether San Jose can make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. The return of star forward Steven Lenhart from family leave also reunites one of the best scoring tandems with Chris Wondolowski, giving the Earthquakes another reason to feel optimistic about a turnaround season.


LAST YEAR: 18-7-9 (2nd place overall, second in Western Conference).
WHO’S BACK: Coach Sigi Schmid, F Fredy Montero, M Osvaldo Alonso, M Mauro Rosales, M Alvaro Fernandez, M Brad Evans M Steve Zakuani, D Jeff Parke, D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
WHO’S GONE: G Kasey Keller, D James Riley, F Mike Fucito, M Lamar
WHO’S NEW: F Eddie Johnson, D Adam Johansson, M Christian Sivebaek, G Michael Gspurning.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Seattle is the clear No. 2 team in the Western Conference heading into the season, but the gap between favorite Los Angeles and the Sounders is yet to be determined. The Sounders felt the need to add additional firepower up front and traded Fucito and Neagle to Montreal for the rights to Johnson. Rosales was the MLS newcomer of the year last season, and his return was crucial to continuing the success of last season. Zakuani’s return from a gruesome injury that cost him most of last season could be a moral and talent boost if he returns to form. Gspurning will have the pressure of replacing a local legend in Keller and Seattle still needs to find the vocal replacement for Keller, who was never shy about sharing an opinion from the back. Sounders open MLS play with four of five and six of first eight at home, where 40,000
strong are expected for the entire regular season. A quick start is a must if the Sounders
expect to challenge L.A.


Best in MLS? Mauro Rosales, seen here in Seattle’s eye-opening new kit against Santos Wednesday in CONCACAF Champions League action, may be the best playmaker in MLS; Coach Sigi Schmid hopes he proves it this season (AP Photo).


LAST YEAR: 6-13-15 (16th overall, eighth in East)
WHO’S BACK: G Stefan Frei, G Milos Kocic, D Adrian Cann, D Richard
Eckersley, D Ty Harden, D Doneil Henry, D Ashtone Morgan, D Dicoy Williams, M Eric Avila, M Oscar Cordon, M Julian de Guzman, M Terry Dunfield, M Torsten Frings, M-F Nicholas Lindsay, M Matt Stinson, F-M Ryan Johnson, F Danny Koevermans, F Keith Makubuya, F Joao Plata, F Nick Soolsma.
WHO’S GONE: D Danleigh Borman, D Kyle Davies, D Andy Iro, D Demitrius Omphroy, D Eddy Viator, M Elbekay Bouchiba, M Matt Gold, M Leandre Griffit, M Nathan Sturgis, M Gianluca Zavarise, F Peri Marosevic, F Javier Martina, F Mikael Yourassowsky
WHO’S NEW: D Miguel Aceval, D Geovanny Caicedo (Note: Caicedo’s contract was terminated by Toronto by mutual consent Friday), D-M Jeremy Hall, D Aaron Maund, M Reggie Lambe, M Luis Silva
WHAT’S AHEAD: The first year under coach Aron Winter didn’t go so well. After allowing a league-high 59 goals, Toronto added four defenders among its six new players. Frings and Koevermans joined the team at midseason and played well, with Koevermans scoring eight goals in 10 league games and 10 goals in 17 matches overall. Toronto and the Galaxy started ahead of the other MLS meetings, meeting Wednesday in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal, which turned out to be a 2-2 thriller, although fans likely winced at seeing Toronto’s defense concede the late Galaxy equalizer.


LAST YEAR: 6-18-10 (18th overall, ninth in West)
WHO’S BACK: G Joe Cannon, G Brian Sylvestre, D Michael Boxall, D Jay DeMerit, D Jordan Harvey, D Carlyle Mitchell, D Alain Rochat, M-F Davide Chiumiento, M-F Atiba Harris, M Gershon Koffie, M Michael Nanchoff, M Russell Teibert, M John Thorrington, F Eric Hassli, F Omar Salgado, F Camilo Sanvezzo, F Long Tan
WHO’S GONE: G Jay Nolly, D Jeb Brovsky, D Bilal Duckett, D Geinier Garca, D Greg Janicki, D Jonathan Leathers, M Philippe Davies, M Nizar Khalfan, M Alexandre Morfaw, M Shea Salinas, M Pete Vagenas, F Mustapha Jarju,
WHO’S NEW: G Brad Knighton, D Martn Bonjour, D-M Greg Klazura, D Lee Young-Pyo, M Bryce Alderson, M Jun Marques Davidson, M Floyd Franks, M Barry Robson (arriving in July from Middlesbrough), M Matt Watson, F Darren Mattocks, F Sebastien Le Toux, F Etienne Barbara


Middlesbrough man: Midfielder Barry Robson will join the Whitecaps this summer after the English season ends (AP Photo).

WHAT’S AHEAD: The expansion Whitecaps played like an expansion team last year. Coach Teitur Thordarson was duly fired on May 30 and replaced by director of soccer operations Tom Soehn on an interim basis. Martin Rennie of the North American Soccer League’s Carolina RailHawks was hired in August to take over in 2012. Le Toux, acquired in a January trade, scored 25 league goals during the previous two seasons with Philadelphia. Lee is a veteran of some big clubs (PSV Eindhoven, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund), but he’s 34 and hasn’t played at a high-level team in three years.

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Angel signs with Chivas USA

I guess that one minor issue got resolved.

The official phraseology: “Chivas USA announced today that Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel will remain with the club during the 2012 MLS season. Details on the conversations were not released.”

“At Chivas USA we are committed to assembling the best possible team, and having Juan Pablo Angel continue [with the team] for the 2012 season is proof of our organization’s commitment,” said the Red-and-White’s General Manager Jose Domene. “We know that Angel will have another great campaign, just like he did last season, bringing joy to our fans with his goals.”

Chivas USA plays Houston at Home Depot Center Sunday in their home opener.

Former Aston Villa striker Angel, a dud with the Galaxy last year, scored seven goals in nine games for Chivas USA at the tail end of last season.

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MLS Preview: A year of consolidating growth on horizon


If you watched the two CONCACAF Champions League games last night from Toronto and Seattle, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the general direction the game of soccer is going in North America.

Big, fanatical crowds, skillful players who can produce the goods and excellent venues all bode well as we anticipate the start of the next MLS season this weekend.

Associated Press Sports Writer Tim Booth looks back at the league’s success and ahead to its challenges in this season preview:

Don Garber was still fresh in his tenure as commissioner of Major League Soccer when the league faced legitimate uncertainty about its future and was forced to close two underperforming clubs.

That was 10 years, nine new clubs and 13 new or renovated stadiums ago.

“There were many times where we were wondering whether or not we would be able to continue to operate,” Garber said. “The league came out with that launch in 1996 and at that time everybody thought we had cracked the code for soccer in America, and all of a sudden the league would explode on the pro sports scene. In reality, it’s difficult to launch a sports league. There is lots of competition and soccer was clearly an emerging sport at that time.”

It’s different now.


MLS Commish Don Garber speaks in Montreal last month as he welcomes the league’s 19th team, the Montreal Impact (AP Photos).

“We feel really good about the developments over the last 10 years and I feel really bullish about the future,” Garber said.

For the first time in recent years, the biggest story entering the MLS season isn’t expansion, even though the league will welcome its 19th franchise with Montreal becoming the third Canadian member of the MLS. Instead, it’s acknowledging a decade of successes.

When teams in Miami and Tampa, Flordida, were contracted following the 2001 season, the league was left with 10 teams, just three different owners and only one soccer-specific stadium.

Since that 2002 season, the league has successfully added teams and diversified its ownership in nearly every corner of the country, gone north by bringing on three Canadian clubs and raised the talent level to where the quality of play is gaining international respect.

“I think the improvement of the league over the last 10 years is exponentially more than 10 years,” said Seattle coach Sigi Schmid, who was coaching the L.A. Galaxy 10 years ago. “You look at Year 1 through Year 6 and you look at Year 6 to now … the quality of play has gotten better. The fan bases, every club, every city you go into, with the exception of a few, has a really good base support following.”


Brian Ching, seen here practicing in Carson last year, is back with the Houston Dynamo after a brief disgruntled stay with the Montreal Impact. The Dynamo visit Chivas USA this Sunday in Carson.

The MLS season begins on Saturday with expansion club Montreal hosting Vancouver; Colorado vs. Columbus; D.C. United vs. Kansas City; San Jose vs. New England and reigning MLS Cup champion Los Angeles hosting Real Salt Lake. On Sunday, Dallas hosts New York and Chivas USA hosts Houston and the first week of play wraps up Monday night with Portland hosting Philadelphia in a nationally televised Monday night football game on (live 6:30 p.m. ESPN2).

Toronto and Seattle both received first-week byes due to their involvement in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, as did Chicago. The Sounders host Toronto in their opener on March 17, while Chicago opens its season at Montreal the same day.

Montreal is the latest franchise to join the fray, hoping to achieve a modicum of the success that recent expansion markets — Toronto, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver — have enjoyed.

But while successful expansion has dominated the league’s on-field story lines for much of the past few seasons, this year might as well be highlighted by individuals who turned down overseas offers to continue playing in North America’s top league.

David Beckham’s groundbreaking initial contract with the league expired at the end of last season when Beckham and the Galaxy claimed the MLS Cup title to cap a dominant season. And while a handful of clubs in Europe — most notably Paris Saint-Germain — came close to wooing Beckham back across the Atlantic, the former England captain decided to continue his soccer career in California.

The Galaxy weren’t done there. Landon Donovan thrived during his loan at Everton, but returned to L.A. Robbie Keane will have his first full season playing in MLS with the Galaxy, while Edson Buddle returns from Europe and Juninho from Brazil.

About the only question regarding Los Angeles is along the backline, where Omar Gonzalez is still recovering from a serious knee injury.

“I think we’ve been developing a team that’s a little bit deeper than last year. Hopefully,
that’s a good sign,” L.A. coach Bruce Arena said. “The only way we’re going to be able to tell the potential of this team is when we get into the season (but) I’m optimistic we can put together another good team.”

Los Angeles leads a powerful Western Conference.

The top four clubs in terms of points and six of the top seven last season were in the West and 2012 isn’t expected to be much different. Seattle said goodbye to Kasey Keller but added former U.S. national team striker Eddie Johnson and retained MLS newcomer of the year Mauro Rosales.

58953-eddie johnson.jpg

Out of the wilderness? Former U.S. National team striker Eddie Johnson has returned from years of wandering in search of a foreign club to MLS, signing with the Seattle Sounders.

Real Salt Lake retained the squad that reached the Western Conference finals last year. FC Dallas brings back Brek Shea, while both Portland and Vancouver have upgraded entering their sophomore campaigns.

While the West is loaded, the Eastern Conference is muddled. New York has the name talent with Thierry Henry returning for another season and Rafa Marquez trying to bounce back from 2011 disappointment. But the favorite in the East might be Sporting Kansas City, playing its first full season in its home stadium and with emerging stars Teal Bunbury and 2011 rookie of the year C.J. Sapong.

“We have a core group of guys returning from last year that has an understanding of how we want to play, so it’s up to those guys to decide how we’re going to be week to week,” KC coach Peter Vermes said. “They haven’t really won anything yet, so I think hunger is something that goes with wanting to win.”

MLS has again changed its playoff format. The highest remaining seed will now host the MLS Cup title game instead of having it played at a pre-determined site. The top five teams in each conference will reach the playoffs, with the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds playing for the right to advance to the conference semifinals.

The conference championships will also be a two-leg, home-and-home series rather than a single game as in the past.

AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contribututed to this story.

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Galaxy Roster Update: Club signs three, cuts two

Who’s in: Central defender and first round draft pick Bryan Gaul out of Bradley, who played in eight of nine pre-season games; midfielder Kenney Walker, a second round draft pick out of Louisville; and Granada Hills resident Rafael Garcia, a midfielder out of Cal State Northridge. All three made the trip north to Toronto with the club.

Who’s out: Defenders Justin Davies and J.T. Murray were not offered contracts, leaving the club’s roster at 31 players heading into the MLS season opener on Saturday against Real Salt Lake.

The club made the announcement today.

Two players are on the disabled list: Central defenders Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo, which means they’ll miss at least six games apiece.

And here’s the first injury list of the season, also released today: OUT – Adam Cristman (Concussion), Omar Gonzalez (Left Knee – Surgery), Bryan Jordan (Left Hamstring – Strain), Leonardo (Right Knee – Surgery), Kyle Nakazawa (Tonsillectomy), Jose Villarreal (Bilateral lower leg – surgery)

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