It's been 10 years since the Galaxy played a game that had no bearing on the MLS playoff races. But it will happen Saturday when they play host to the Colorado Rapids, the only team in the league with a worse record (Spectrum SN, Spectrum Deportes, 8 p.m. PT).
Although the Galaxy, 6-14-5 and 14 points out of a playoff spot with nine games left, still have the thinnest of mathematical chances of reaching the playoffs, they have no realistic shot of getting there. It's partly because they are riding a 10-game winless streak, have earned just one point since mid-June, haven't scored in their last four home games and have just one goal anywhere since July 22.
The Rapids are even worse. They have won just one of their last 11 games, are winless on the road this season, have averaged less than a goal a game and are one point behind the Galaxy at the bottom of the MLS standings.
So while Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid has mouthed all the right clichés about not giving up until his team is eliminated, he's also made it clear it's time to look ahead to next season.
"We have to get as many points as we can get this year," he said. "If it turns out something strange happens and we can get into the playoffs, then we have to be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity.
"If not, then we really have to make sure that we're preparing ourselves for what we want to accomplish next season."
How the Galaxy finish this season could have a big impact on how they start the next one. In 2007, the Columbus Crew team that Schmid coached won just nine games and missed the playoffs. But two of those wins came in the final two games, building momentum for a 2008 season in which the Crew won their only MLS title.
"We still want to make the playoffs," he said of this season's Galaxy. "But this is a foundation for accomplishing what we want next year."
The Galaxy started laying that foundation last Tuesday when it announced the hiring of Dominic Kinnear as Schmid's top assistant. Kinnear won two MLS Cups as a head coach, the same as Schmid, and with 166 coaching victories trails only his new boss and former Galaxy coach Bruce Arena on the career list.
No matter who is on the sidelines, the Galaxy are unlikely to make any progress until they put a consistent lineup on the field. Injuries, suspensions and inexperience plagued Curt Onalfo, who was fired as coach in July, and that hasn't gotten any better under Schmid, who hasn't started the same 11 players twice in his five games.
That won't change Saturday when the Galaxy will be without midfielder Jonathan dos Santos and his brother, forward Giovani dos Santos, who are both on international duty with Mexico. Defender Nathan Smith is also out after drawing a red card in the last game, while defender Pele van Anholt is done until next spring after tearing the ACL and meniscus in his right knee.
Schmid will get back leading scorer Romain Alessandrini, who missed the last game after his girlfriend went into labor. Alessandrini, however, hasn't scored since the last time the Galaxy played Colorado more than 2½ months ago.
That was also the last game the Galaxy won.