Following him were Keane, the 2014 MLS MVP, Gerrard, the Liverpool legend who never quite lived up to the SoCal hype, and Donovan, who wasn't part of the Galaxy's long-term vision after returning midseason last year. Yeah, life at the StubHub Center is markedly different in 2017.
The established stars on the bench and field are off, and the next generation needs to be rebuilt. L.A. is going through what every other club must as the clock ticks on. Evidence: L.A. is 0-2-0 to start the year. The Galaxy hadn't lost more two home matches all season since 2013. L.A. lost just one regular-season home match in 2014 and 2016.
RSL captain Kyle Beckerman regularly faced that L.A. dynasty in postseason play throughout the years and admits not seeing Arena on the bench will be a bit odd. Right back Tony Beltran used the same term.
"A little strange," they both said.
Former L.A. Galaxy II coach Curt Onalfo was hired to replace Arena, and L.A. moved away from the older Designated Player model that worked so well for the Galaxy in recent years. L.A. enters this weekend's match at Rio Tinto Stadium bruised, which only will compound the early uncertainty.
Giovani dos Santos is out with a hamstring issue. Gyasi Zardes is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Robbie Rogers is recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Ashley Cole is dealing with a calf strain from preseason.
And fortunately for RSL's struggling attack, center back Jelle Van Damme is suspended after receiving two questionable yellow cards in the 1-0 home loss to Portland on Sunday.
"I've watched both their games," Beltran said. "They're playing good soccer. They'll be just fine. MLS is MLS. You go through ups and downs."
High-profile newcomers Romain Alessandrini, Jermaine Jones and Joao Pedro are expected to start for the Galaxy. Somewhat like RSL in 2017, L.A., with all its new faces, is trying to mesh the newcomers in on the fly while dealing with injuries.
"It's just whenever you get a new team, it takes time to jell," Beckerman said. "I think they're trying to find themselves."
One holdover from 2016 will be RSL's focal point. L.A. winger Emmanuel Boateng emerged a year ago as an RSL thorn.
All four of his goals in his first year with the Galaxy came against RSL. Boateng tortured RSL's back line in the first-round loss in Carson, Calif.
"It seems like we do a good job for 90 percent of the time on him and then he makes us pay for the mistakes," RSL coach Jeff Cassar said.
Beltran said L.A. is a dangerous team no matter what the March results say, yet it's hard to fathom that a Week 3 matchup between RSL and Galaxy features a pair of winless teams.
"It's going to be a volatile situation for both clubs," Beltran said. "A must-win for both clubs."
L.A. Galaxy at Real Salt Lake
P At Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy
Kickoff • 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TV • KMYU
Radio • 700 AM
Records • RSL 0-1-1, L.A. 0-2-0
Last meeting • L.A. won 3-1 (Oct. 26, 2016 at StubHub Center)
About L.A. • The Galaxy will be without Giovani dos Santos (hamstring), Gyasi Zardes (knee), Robbie Rogers (ankle), Ashley Cole (calf) and Jelle Van Damme (suspension). … L.A.'s back-to-back home losses are more than all of 2016. … The Galaxy are 3-6-7 all-time at Rio Tinto Stadium. … L.A. winger Emmanuel Boateng torched RSL in 2016, scoring four goals and two assists in three games.
About RSL • Forwards Joao Plata (hip) and Jordan Allen (quad) are doubtful for Saturday's match. … Center backs Chris Schuler (foot) and Aaron Maund (hamstring) returned to training this week. … RSL still is searching for its first goal of 2017. … The offensive struggles date back to 2016. The club has scored just two goals in its last eight regular-season games. … Goalkeeper Nick Rimando (U.S.) and midfielder Albert Rusnák (Slovakia) have been called up for respective World Cup qualifiers next week.