The Galaxy opens its season Saturday night facing the rival that knocked them out of the playoffs last year: Real Salt Lake.
But the Galaxy will field a markedly different team at the StubHub Center after bolstering its ranks with several experienced players during the off-season.
The moves were to correct the team's uneven play in 2013. "If there was a weakness last year, it's that we were inconsistent," said Coach Bruce Arena, who last month signed a multiyear contract extension.
The Galaxy finished the 2013 regular season in third place in Major League Soccer's tightly bunched Western Conference with a record of 15-11-8 and 53 points, four points behind the first-place Portland Timbers.
The Galaxy then hoped to win its third consecutive MLS championship and record fifth overall. But in the two-game conference semifinals, Real Salt Lake prevailed 2-1 on aggregate goals. It marked the Galaxy's earliest exit from the playoffs since 2008.
Real Salt Lake, which finished second in the conference, eventually advanced to the MLS Cup title game. But it lost to Sporting Kansas City in a 7-6 penalty-kick shootout after the teams played to a 1-1 draw.
The Galaxy still has its top players in forwards Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, defenders Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Keane signed a contract extension this week after the Irishman scored a club-high 16 goals in 23 games last season.
"Everyone's excited just to get the season started," Gonzalez said. "If we have our main team on the field it's pretty hard for teams to beat us."
The club also added these players over the winter:
—Canadian forward Rob Friend, 33, formerly of the German club TSV 1860 Munich.
—Brazilian forward Samuel Rosa Goncalves, a 23-year-old known simply as Samuel, on loan from Brazil's Fluminense FC team.
—Midfielder Stefan Ishizaki, 31, who spent the last eight years playing for the Swedish team IF Elfsborg.
—Midfielder Baggio Husidic, 26, who played the last two years with Sweden's Hammarby IF.
—Veteran defender James Riley, 31, who last year played with D.C. United.
At the same time, the Galaxy parted ways with defenders Sean Franklin and Greg Cochrane, goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini and midfielders Hector Jimenez and Michael Stephens. Forward Jose Villarreal was placed on loan to Cruz Azul of Mexico and midfielder Pablo Mastroeni retired.
Real Salt Lake made changes of its own. After Coach Jason Kreis left to become coach of MLS expansion team New York City FC, Real Salt Lake named first assistant Jeff Cassar for the top job.
Donovan, — who along with Gonzalez is also on the U.S. national team, needs one more goal to set the MLS career regular-season scoring record. Donovan is tied with Jeff Cunningham with 134 career goals.
But at a practice earlier this week, when Donovan was asked about achieving the feat, he said, "It's not on my mind at all and I'm just focusing on the game.
"If I get in the right spots I'm always trying to score, whether it's my first goal or 130-something," he said.
Times staff writer James Barragan contributed to this report.
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