At the halfway point of the Major League Soccer season, the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy sat tied for fourth place in the Western Conference standings. However, the team is finally getting healthy, and Coach Bruce Arena expects his squad to make a playoff push starting Saturday against the Philadelphia Union at StubHub Center.
“We've been able to keep our heads above water, and this is the time for us to start getting results,” he said. “We're right in the middle of the pack, not too far behind and hopefully positioned well for the second half."
Saturday marked the first of four home games in a five-game span, and that's good news for a team that has lost only once in Carson since the start of the 2014 season. The Galaxy (5-5-7) also entered Saturday's game having lost just once in seven meetings against Philadelphia, tallying 15 goals while going 5-1-1.
With captain Robbie Keane recovered from the groin injury that kept him sidelined for most of the first half of the season, left back Robbie Rogers back from leg and ankle injuries and English superstar Steven Gerrard about to join the lineup, the Galaxy seem poised to repeat what they did two years ago when they went 7-7-3 in their first 17 games but made the postseason thanks to strong play down the stretch.
Rogers made his first league appearance since May 9 last Saturday, playing the full 90 minutes at left back in a 1-1 draw with Columbus Crew FC.
“I feel good, I feel better every day, getting sharper and feeling more comfortable,” he said. “I think this is something I'm just going to have to deal with all season.”
Midfielder Jose Villarreal played striker after sitting out the previous game against Vancouver with a shoulder injury.
“We're definitely going to turn things around this season and make a run for the championship again,” Villarreal said. “We'll have a deeper squad and make things right.”
A.J. DeLaGarza agreed that time is of the essence.
“We've got to turn it on now,” he said. “The record is not good enough for this club, but we're not far from the top. We keep pushing, getting guys back, Keane's back and Rogers is back and I'm coming back… the list goes on. If we can get guys healthy and clicking, I think we're going to be a very dangerous team.”
Midfielder Stefan Ishizaki said the Galaxy, despite their record, remain a formidable opponent.
“When we put our minds together, we work really hard for each other,” he said. “That makes us a team that's really, really hard to beat, and that's how we have to keep playing. Things are starting to look up for us. We're getting guys healthy again, we've got Keano again, and Gerrard's on the way in. That's two world-class players for our team.”
Philadelphia (4-9-3) entered Saturday's contest sixth in the Eastern Conference and hadn't played a road game since May 30.
On Wednesday, Keane scored three times and Baggio Husidic, Sebastian Lletget and Gyasi Zardes each added a goal in a 6-1 victory over PSA Elite in its U.S. Open Cup fourth-round match at StubHub Center.