The stars are aligned for L.A. to hoist MLS Cup

The Los Angeles Galaxy front office has done everything under the sun to bring the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy back to Carson, CA.

Los Angeles edged Real Salt Lake 3-1 in Sunday's Western Conference Final to punch its ticket to the MLS Cup, where it will face the Houston Dynamo.

With three successive first-place finishes in the Western Conference and two- straight Supporters' Shield titles, the Galaxy have been a strong force in recent Major League Soccer regular season play.

But that success has not translated to trophies as Los Angeles has not claimed an MLS title since its phenomenal 2005 season when it scooped up the postseason championship as well as the U.S. Open Cup.

Immediately following that season the Galaxy suffered a minor hangover, failing to even qualify for the playoffs the next three campaigns.

The Galaxy went through a rebuilding period that saw them sign superstar David Beckham in 2007 in addition to several changes at the head coaching and general manager positions.

Bruce Arena, who replaced Ruud Gullit as head coach and Alexi Lalas as general manager in 2008, appealed to Los Angeles given his past triumphs in the league. He has two MLS Cup titles with D.C. United to his name (1996 and 1997) as well as three MLS Supporters' Shields (1997, 2010, and 2011) and two MLS Coach of the Year Awards (1997 and 2009) throughout his full MLS tenure.

The former U.S. national team coach immediately assembled a strong nucleus of players built to help the Galaxy contend in the playoffs for several seasons.

Los Angeles nearly repaid Arena's faith the following year, but fell short in the 2009 edition of the MLS Cup, losing out to Real Salt Lake on penalties.

Of the 14 Galaxy players that made it out onto the pitch in that match, 12 are still with the team. It is that kind of continuity that has afforded Los Angeles the ability to develop chemistry from year to year.

The other pieces that the club has since added have also been crucial to the Galaxy's recent success.

Juninho has brought a scrappy, yet creative, presence to the midfield, while Designated Player Robbie Keane can let his goal-scoring record abroad speak for itself.

With a lineup consisting of players with proven MLS pedigree like Landon Donovan, Mike Magee, and Todd Dunivant, as well as young and emerging talent like Omar Gonzalez, Sean Franklin, and A.J. DeLaGarza, these additions certainly give Los Angeles the look of a championship side.

But the Galaxy front office went one step further in its quest to secure a championship, tabling a successful bid to host the MLS Cup in 2011 at The Home Depot Center with the hopes that L.A. would compete for the title in its home stadium.

It has added immense pressure to a season ripe with high expectations, but Los Angeles has responded in impressive fashion, finishing the regular season atop the league with an unbeaten home record.

Beckham is also in the final year of his contract, and while he has not indicated whether he plans to stay in MLS or accept one of the numerous reported offers from several different European sides, he has a penchant for leaving teams on the back of a championship season.

In 2003, he departed from Manchester United after winning the Premiership to join Real Madrid, playing with "Los Galacticos" for four seasons but only claiming the La Liga title in the 2006-07 campaign prior to his move to Los Angeles.

With a motivated Beckham, home field advantage, a superb supporting cast with proven chemistry, and a head coach with a track record of finding success in the playoffs, there are no more excuses for Los Angeles this go-around.

Everything has come together for the Galaxy to this point. All that's left is one more match to achieve glory.