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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 months.

"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 MLSsoccer.com 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 point."

10/31 20:21:33 ET