Carson, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Los Angeles Galaxy will begin their MLS Cup title defense when they open the 2015 season against the Chicago Fire at the StubHub Center on Friday.
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.
Rounding out the L.A. roster, Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo will 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.
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop was very busy this offseason, and it wasn't a surprise considering that the club failed to reach the postseason for the second successive year.
Yallop's first season in charge of the Fire netted just six wins in 34 league games, a franchise low, and the former San Jose Earthquakes boss wasted little time in attempting to improve his team.
Not only did Yallop add three Designated Players to his side, but he also acquired a Trinidad and Tobago international defender as well as a former Southampton forward in the hopes of returning the Fire to the postseason for the first time since 2012.
The influx of talent includes a pair of forwards signed as Designated Players in David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike, while midfielder Shaun Maloney is also a DP and should help provide width for the Fire attack.
Defensively, Yallop added two potentially important pieces as well in Adailton and Joevin Jones.
The talent level in Chicago has certainly improved, but the other side of that coin is that Yallop will now have to hope his new pieces are able to assimilate quickly to Major League Soccer, and that they can fit well with the current group of players from last year's team.