The Galaxy is going to need equal parts good fortune and good performance if it's going to make a serious run at a sixth Major League Soccer title.
It got a start on the good-performance part Sunday, when goals from Giovani dos Santos and Robbie Keane in the first 14 minutes, and a goal from Steven Gerrard early in the second half carried it to a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas in front of a sellout 27,000 at StubHub Center.
The Galaxy ended a winless streak at three games to move back atop the Western Conference with 50 points and the best record in MLS. If it finishes the season there, it is guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, no small perk for a team with the league's best record at home and the conference's worst record on the road.
"We're at the business end of the season and it's all about three points," Gerrard said. "It's not about individuals and who gets what. It's about the three points."
That's where the good-fortune part comes in. Because if the Galaxy is to stay in first place, it's going to need some help.
The team has only three games left in the regular season, fewest in the conference. That leaves its rivals with a chance at between three and six additional points down the stretch.
Plus two of the Galaxy's final three games, against playoff contenders Seattle and Sporting Kansas City, are on the road.
And under the ever-evolving MLS postseason format, which changed for the third time in five seasons, a good finish to the regular season has taken on additional importance. This year, only the top two teams in the conference will avoid a one-game knockout round for a spot in the playoff semifinals.
Coach Bruce Arena wasn't interested in any of those scenarios Sunday.
"There's one team with 50 points and that's us," he said. "Somebody else has got to get that. That's the most important thing."
The Galaxy opened the scoring in the 11th minute on a sequence that started with Dos Santos feeding Keane at the top of the box. Keane sent the ball out to the right wing, where Gyasi Zardes crossed it back to a hard-charging Dos Santos, who redirected it past rookie goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.
It was the first goal for the Galaxy in more than a month.
It didn't have to wait long for its next one, though, with Dos Santos setting up Keane three minutes later with a back-heel pass at the edge of the penalty area. Keane then bent a right-footed strike around Gonzalez for his 16th goal of the season.
The Dos Santos-Zardes pairing remains something of a work in progress for the Galaxy. In Dos Santos' first three MLS games, he and Zardes shared time beside Keane up front and on the right wing and the team won all three games, scoring 10 goals.
The Galaxy was winless and didn't score in the next three.
"I'm content to play behind Keane or on the right," Dos Santos said. "It depends on the situation, the time of the game and where I get the most space."
The pairing was dangerous Sunday, combining for a goal, two assists and five shots. But it fell to Gerrard, another player who has shifted positions, to score the winning goal.
Moved further up the midfield into a more defensive posture, Gerrard collected his second MLS goal, in the 57th minute off the rebound of a Gonzalez save inside the six-yard box to make it 3-1.
But Dallas, which scored its first goal in the 35th minute when a Mauro Diaz pass from just beyond the midfield stripe found Michael Barrios behind the the Galaxy defense, wouldn't quit.
And when Atiba Harris slotted home a right-footed shot from about 10 yards in the 86th minute, it set up a tense finish for the Galaxy