Carson, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Los Angeles Galaxy will aim to prolong their MLS dynasty with success in the 2015 season.
Los Angeles is coming off of an MLS Cup triumph over the New England Revolution, a win that handed the Galaxy their third piece of postseason silverware in four years.
Throw in two MLS Supporters' Shields in the last five years and there is little debate that Los Angeles is the preeminent American club.
But while form appears to be on the Galaxy's side, there are certainly obstacles for the club to overcome in its pursuit of a sixth MLS Cup title.
Landon Donovan retired from professional soccer at the conclusion of last season, leaving L.A. without its talisman for the first time since 2004, save for his puzzling sabbatical ahead of the 2013 season.
His departure will leave striker Robbie Keane as the face of the franchise, at least until midfielder Steven Gerrard arrives in the summer.
Keane, the reigning MLS MVP, has taken America by storm since making the move to the Galaxy in 2011, netting a staggering total of 53 goals in 84 league appearances. The Irishman's contributions have not gone unnoticed as he was handed the captaincy in the wake of Donovan's departure.
Los Angeles has a strong supporting cast, but everyone will be waiting with bated breath for Gerrard to join in the summer.
The Englishman, who continues to fight for his place in the Liverpool team, signed a pre-contract agreement to move to Los Angeles in the summer, penning a deal that will keep him at the StubHub Center through the 2016 season.
The signing makes sense on paper as Gerrard is a proven winner with tremendous leadership capabilities, but through history, European players joining MLS teams have, more often than not, needed time to acclimate to MLS and its rigorous travel demands. It's entirely plausible that Gerrard's contract may expire before he really finds a groove in MLS.
While these circumstances may serve to mitigate Gerrard's on-field contributions, the Liverpool legend certainly raises the overall profile of the league, an ancillary benefit for a club that has not gone wanting for silverware.
Gerrard also has the benefit of joining an established team that shouldn't need sizable contributions from the onset.
Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo anchor a defense that conceded just 37 goals in 34 regular season matches last term, tying the Galaxy with D.C. United for the league-lead.
Jose Villarreal, Baggio Husidic and Juninho provide head coach Bruce Arena with plenty of midfield options while Robbie Rogers and Stefan Ishizaki give the Galaxy quality out wide.
Keane's resume speaks for itself, but perhaps his best contribution has come in the manner in which he's aided the development of young striker Gyasi Zardes, who enjoyed something of a breakout season in 2014 by scoring 16 goals in 26 appearances.
Even without Gerrard, the Galaxy have all the pieces to make another run at MLS Cup. But the Englishman could prove to be the missing piece that elevates them from contenders to favorites.
ADDITIONS: Steven Gerrard (M), Ignacio Maganto (M).
LOSSES: Landon Donovan (F).
OUTLOOK: The key pieces remain in place for the Galaxy to make a legitimate MLS Cup run. While the club does not have Donovan at its disposal, it's becoming increasingly clear that Keane runs the show. And while leadership in the midfield may be absent for the first half of the season, Gerrard will swoop in to aid the Galaxy's title push.