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Real Salt Lake-Galaxy Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The Los Angeles Galaxy's star-studded lineup lived up to lofty expectations last season and won the MLS Cup.
The club is looking to add more hardware in 2012, but Real Salt Lake is seeking a trophy of its own.
The reigning champion Galaxy try to continue their success against Salt Lake at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night in a rematch of last year's Western Conference final.
Los Angeles went 19-5-10 last year, claiming the Supporters' Shield for the best regular-season record before winning all four playoff games, including a 1-0 victory over Houston in the MLS Cup final Nov. 20.
With stars David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane back, the Galaxy are looking to become the first team to win consecutive MLS titles since Houston in 2006-07.
"We want to improve from last season," said Beckham, who re-signed with Los Angeles after totaling 18 assists last year in his best season with the club. "We went all the way, won the championship and performed very well - but we want to do it again this season. A lot of hard work is required but we've got a group of players willing to do that."
They also have their sights set on becoming the first MLS side to win the CONCACAF Champions League. However, those hopes were nearly dealt a severe blow by Toronto FC in the first leg of the quarterfinals Wednesday. The Galaxy gave up two goals in the opening 17 minutes before Landon Donovan completed a rally with an 88th-minute tally in a 2-2 draw.
"We think we have a team that's capable of doing something special," Donovan told the team's official website.
Donovan had 15 goals last season and scored the winner in the Cup final. The midfielder enters this season with impressive momentum, getting three assists in a seven-game loan stint with Everton of the Premier League.
Keane is also coming off a loan spell in England, scoring three goals in seven games for Aston Villa. The Irish forward had three goals in eight MLS games after joining the Galaxy.
Donovan and Keane each had a goal as Los Angeles beat RSL 3-1 in the West final Nov. 6.
Central defense is a major concern after reigning league defender of the year Omar Gonzalez suffered a torn ACL in a training session while on loan to Germany's Nurnberg.
Veteran Andrew Boyens filled in Wednesday and another option is Tommy Meyer, the 19th overall selection out of Indiana in January's SuperDraft.
Los Angeles also re-acquired forward Edson Buddle and midfielder Juninho.
The Galaxy went 15-0-5 at home last year, and they're 3-0-1 in the last four there against Salt Lake.
RSL is also eyeing the MLS Cup while looking to advance to the knockout stage of next season's CONCACAF Champions League.
"If we achieve those, we succeed," general manager Garth Lagerwey told the team's official website. "If we don't, we fail. It's very black and white this year ... period. End of story.
"Everybody's been around at least three years in this core group. We kept this group together for one reason - to win, and to win titles. We will be judged and we will be successful if we win titles."
Real returns much of the team that went 15-11-8 in 2011 and became the first MLS club to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final, which it lost 3-2 to Monterrey of Mexico.
A healthy Javier Morales could make a difference. The midfield playmaker was limited to two goals and four assists in 13 games last season due to an ankle injury.
He has three goals and two assists in his past four meetings with Los Angeles, and is expected to start behind forwards Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio, who combined for 21 goals last year.
Updated March 9, 2012