It’s all about playoff positioning for the Galaxy as they head into the homestretch of the Major League Soccer season.
Entering Saturday night’s contest against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Coach Bruce Arena’s squad sat alone in fourth place in the Western Conference standings and only six points behind front-running FC Dallas with nine games remaining.
Bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Brian Rowe, the Galaxy began their playoff push with a valuable point but were hoping for better than a scoreless draw in front of a sold-out crowd of 25,667 at StubHub Center. The 0-0 tie kept Los Angeles unbeaten at home (6-0-7) but extended its winless streak to six games.
Several diving saves and deflections in practice Friday indicated Rowe was back in form after sitting out most of three games recovering from a head wound suffered Aug. 13 in a 1-1 draw with Colorado. The former UCLA star and five-year MLS veteran notched his seventh shutout and lowered his goals-against average to .880 — lowest in the league among goalies with 20 or more games played.
Los Angeles (9-4-13, 40 points) was desperately trying to gain ground on Real Salt Lake and Colorado, who began the night tied for second in the Western Conference with 43 points.
Steven Gerrard left with a hamstring injury in the 31st minute (replaced by Gyasi Zardes) and 13 minutes later Jelle Van Damme went down limping. Giovani dos Santos misfired on a cross from Robbie Rogers in the 65th minute. Alan Gordon missed high on a diving header at the penalty spot one minute later and hooked a shot inches wide of the post from the top of the penalty area in the 72nd minute.
Captain Robbie Keane, still recovering from an unspecified “knock” while training in Chicago, did not play, but Rogers returned to the lineup for the first time since June 2. He had successful ankle surgery June 20 following 10 starts and 12 MLS appearances for the Galaxy this year.
Vancouver nearly struck first in the eighth minute when Giles Barnes broke down the right side and centered to Erik Hurtado, whose header from six yards out hit the bottom of the crossbar and ricocheted out of play. Another Hurtado header sailed just wide in the 24th minute and Barnes floated a free kick inches high in the 33rd minute. Rowe made his first save on a half-volley by Hurtado at the 35-minute mark.
Vancouver (8-12-7, 31 points) ended a four-game MLS slide and remained in ninth place in the West, ahead of Houston. This was the third meeting between the teams this season. They played to a scoreless draw April 2 at BC Place and the Galaxy won, 2-0, July 4 at StubHub Center on goals by Keane and Jeff Larentowicz.
Settling for ties has been a disturbing trend of late and although the Galaxy have only one loss in their last 12 games, they haven’t earned a full three points since beating Portland, 2-1, on July 23.