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Western Conference Preview: Los Angeles Galaxy

What can we expect in 2016 from the team that finished 5th in the West in 2015?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Galaxy realized that their chief problem last year was the lack of bite in central midfield that allowed opponents to waltz straight down the middle of the park. With Gerrard announcing that he will retire after this season and rumors that this will be Bruce Arena's last season, the Galaxy brass have gambled on a "win now" mentality. Juninho was sold, opening the spot next to Stevie for World Cup veteran Nigel de Jong to mow down the opposition. Experienced international defenders Ashley Cole, Jelle van Damme, and MLS veteran Jeff Larentowicz are expected to strengthen a backline that lost stalwart American national team center back Omar Gonzalez. LA native Dan Kennedy was brought home from Dallas to suit up in goal.

The tradeoff to this veteran-first strategy is that Galaxy's top youth players, like Jose Villareal and Bradford Jamieson IV, will not often see the field. In addition, there is no guarantee that their European players will acclimate to MLS. Steven Gerrard complained at the end of the season last year that he struggled with humidity, coast-to-coast travel, and artificial turf fields:

"Going on the road, playing on turf, playing at altitude, playing in humidity, those are the hurdles that I've had to face over the last three months that I wasn't aware of. Every away game has a different challenge. At home, we've got no problems because we're very strong and we play well. We'll always win more than we lose. For us to move forward next year and finish in the top two spots - and avoid games like [Seattle] - we've got to be better defensively and stop conceding on set pieces and crosses."

Will the "win now" mentality pay off with an MLS Cup for the Galaxy this season? In a preseason match against the Seattle Sounders where both teams rolled out what appear to be first-choice lineups, the Galaxy were hammered 0-4. On one play, Ashley Cole could have been replaced with a traffic cone as Seattle forward Jordan Morris blew by him with ease. The Galaxy are lacking defensive cohesion.

It's a long season. Bruce Arena will have time to tinker. The lineup certainly looks strong on paper. The Galaxy could peak at the right time to win MLS Cup, like the Timbers last year.

Bottom Line: Heading into the season there are many questions surrounding the LA Galaxy. Will the Galaxy figure out the puzzle in time, or will the season pan out like 2015 where the pieces never quite fit together?

Projected Strongest Lineup: