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GALAXY: Getting better is the goal

The Galaxy are looking for more than a victory in their Major League Soccer home opener Sunday. They'd like to play well, too.

They were one for two in the league opener Tuesday night in Seattle, and the right one, too. The 1-0 victory was satisfying even if the performance wasn't.

“I think we have an intelligent team,” said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, whose side takes on the New England Revolution in the 5 p.m. game at Home Depot Center. “We knew what we needed to do, the Juninho goal was important, and we were mature enough, experienced enough to simply say: Let's get out of here with the three points. And we did that.

“Certainly, the performance needs to improve. We need to play better Sunday than we did Tuesday in Seattle.”

The Galaxy wins ugly like no other MLS club. They rarely were at their best, certainly after the first two months, en route to last season's Supporters' Shield, and the foundations of Tuesday's victory -- tight defending, great goalkeeping, precise counterattack -- weren't far different from those of last year's playoff triumph.

“I think it reaffirmed,” captain Landon Donovan said, “what we know about our team: that our team's deep; that it doesn't matter who's on the field, we can compete; we don't have to play particularly well to win. I don't think we had a good game technically with the ball. That being said, we do all the right things to help your team win games.”

Tuesday's struggles can be largely attributed to Qwest Field's rain-slicked artificial surface, which made possession very difficult.

“Our passing needs to be better [than in Seattle]. Our final idea in front of the goal needs to be better,” Donovan said. “When you play on a dry field for eight weeks in preseason, and you get on a wet [artificial] turf field, it makes a difference. I think you saw a lot of passes get away from guys, a lot of plays get away from guys that wouldn't [normally]. So our hope is we get back home where we're comfortable, and the game will look different.”

INJURY LIST: The good news: Center back Omar Gonzalez is back, and appears to be near full strength, after missing Tuesday's game with a shoulder sprain. ... Forward Juan Pablo Angel and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts worked primarily with trainers in practice Friday, and Arena said he was “not going to push any of these players back too early … we're going to be smart about it. It's barely in the season, there's no need to get players in positions where they have long-term injuries." … Defender Gregg Berhalter says his sprained left knee hasn't regained stability, and he isn't working yet with a ball. … Forward Adam Cristman (left knee inflammation) and rookie midfielder Dan Keat (fractured left heel) are listed as out.

  • THE OPPONENT:

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

Head coach

Former Liverpool star Steve Nicol has taken the Revolution to four MLS Cup title games. He's in rebuilding mode now.

Three key players

Central midfielder Shalrie Joseph, 32, remains one of MLS's most dominant figures, and he's playing for his next contract.

Goalkeeper Matt Reis, 35, one of MLS's best, endured a nightmare campaign in 2010. He missed the first 3½ months after offseason shoulder and knee surgeries and underwent season-ending ankle surgery in October.

Gambian winger Sainey Nyassi, a fifth-year vet at just 22, has superior pace and attacking sensibilities, and he's beginning to mature.

Current form/prospects

New England was awful last year, missing the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons with a 9-16-5 campaign destroyed by injuries and poor form at inopportune times. The pluses: Some players who might not have gained valuable experience.

The big additions are French defender Didier Domi (from Olympiakos) and Ousmane Dabo (from Lazio), who are expected to have huge imprints. Dabo is out Sunday with a quadriceps strain, and Domi is questionable with knee swelling.

The Revs went 4-2-0 during preseason, 2-2-0 against MLS competition, with Nyassi and Zack Schilawski each scoring twice.

Local connections

Reis is it. He's from Mission Viejo, starred at Santa Margarita Catholic High School and led UCLA to an NCAA title in 1997. And he started his pro career with the Galaxy.

Injuries

In addition to the Frenchmen, there's defender Kevin Alston (doubtful, hamstring strain), midfielder Marko Perovic (probable, Achilles tendonitis), and rookie midfielder Andrew Sousa (out, quadriceps strain).