Major League Soccer
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              === Galaxy begin title defense against Whitecaps ===
 Carson,  CA  (Sports Network) - The  Los Angeles Galaxy will begin their title
 defense in less-than-ideal fashion.
 The  reigning MLS  Cup champions  are set  to host  Vancouver Whitecaps  FC on
 Thursday with a depleted backline that has been ravaged by injuries.
 A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo and David Junior Lopes all have been ruled out of the
 clash,  leaving head coach Bruce Arena to rely on youngster Tommy Meyer in the
 center of defense.
 Meyer  featured  in the Galaxy's  final regular season  match, a 1-0 defeat of
 Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday.
 "He's doing very well," Arena said of Meyer. "He started the year where it was
 a little difficult for him being a young player coming into the league, and he
 more  than any  player we've  seen  over the  year  has improved  a lot.  He's
 absorbed  a  lot of information and  done a great  job over the last couple of
 "We  saw Tommy's improvement  and knew that if he were to get on the field for
 us  we'll be fine. For the last month or so he's moving along well, and he's a
 good center-back."
 Sunday's  defeat  of Seattle was  the first clean  sheet for Los Angeles since
 September 14 when it topped the Colorado Rapids 2-0 at The Home Depot Center.
 "It  was a huge  point of emphasis for us to get that shutout, and we did it,"
 Todd  Dunivant  told  of the season  finale. "It wasn't perfect.
 They  had  some opportunities, and  we've already looked  at video of that and
 [are  trying] to correct  that going forward. We know in the playoffs you need
 to  win with  shutouts. You can't rely  on winning, 4-3 or 3-2. That's not the
 best recipe in the playoffs."
 Vancouver has had a tough time keeping Los Angeles off the scoreboard in three
 meetings this season. The Galaxy have earned seven points against the 'Caps by
 a combined score of 7-2.
 With  Thursday's affair being a one-off match, the 'Caps seem prepared to take
 the match into penalty kicks.
 "We  do  practice penalties and we  do practice them throughout the season and
 it's  something in  the past that I've been  able to come out on top in," head
 coach  Martin Rennie told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday. "What
 I've  tried to do throughout the year is try to find out who our best penalty-
 kick  takers  are ... so some  of the best players  may not be on the field at
 that point.
 "Although  we were only fortunate to get one penalty kick this whole season we
 feel  confident  we have  guys that can  take care  of this if  we get to that
 10/31 20:21:33 ET

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