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Galaxy and Dallas end regular season with a scoreless tie

The Galaxy played a game Sunday only because the MLS schedule makers forced them to. But the league couldn’t make them take the game seriously, so Coach Bruce Arena rested his regulars, tested some bench players and basically used it as little more than a scrimmage in preparation for Wednesday’s playoff opener with Real Salt Lake.

The result was a predictably tedious and boring 0-0 tie with FC Dallas, which used the point it earned to finish the regular season with the league’s best record. But now that the preliminaries are over, the Galaxy have less than 72 hours to flip the switch, since anything short of a win Wednesday will end their season.

"If we're not able to do that right now, we're in a lot of trouble," said Arena, whose team bowed out of the postseason in a first-round elimination game last October.

Defender Jelle Van Damme was more succinct.

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"It's money time," he said.

Given recent performances, however, the Galaxy may need to take out a loan to make that payment. The team hasn't beaten a playoff qualifier, or a team with a winning record, since early July and hasn't won at home in six weeks. And though the Galaxy had a win and a tie against Real Salt Lake during the regular season, RSL eliminated them from the 2013 playoffs.

Landon Donovan, who Sunday played his first full game since coming out of retirement last month, said none of those numbers mean much now.

"I wouldn't put too much into that," said Donovan, who has won six MLS Cups, the last four with the Galaxy. "We're playing at home and we expect to win. And that's all there is to it. We feel like we have a group of guys that can win the game."

That group will necessarily include two players held out of the FC Dallas game in captain Robbie Keane and midfielder Giovani dos Santos, who Sunday was named the team’s player of the year. The pair has accounted for eight of the Galaxy’s last 14 goals, dating to late August.

"If we can defend well, we have players who make a difference in front of the goal," Donovan continued in Spanish. "That's the way a team wins championships.

"We're defending well, the whole team. Now we need Gio, we need Robbie."

The team had neither Sunday and it showed. The league dubbed the final day of the regular season "Decision Day," but everything had been pretty much decided for the Galaxy and FC Dallas before they kicked off in front of an announced crowd of 27,167. The former was assured third in the conference standings and the home playoff date that goes with that while Dallas needed just a point to win the Supporter's Shield, emblematic of the league's best record.

"They were playing safe the whole day," defender A.J. DeLaGarza said of Dallas, which gave up just one shot on goal. "One of their players apologized for the way they played. They had to come in here and get a point so they did that."

The Galaxy, meanwhile, just wanted to close the books on the regular season and get on to the games that count. So they did that.

"Guys know now it's win or you go home," DeLaGarza said. "This team always finds a way to turn it up a notch.

"We've got guys in here who have won a bunch of MLS Cups. So we're obviously capable of doing it. We've got to show that Wednesday."

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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