Six weeks ago the Galaxy’s route to MLS playoffs seemed as wide as an eight-lane superhighway.
Then came a season-worst six-game winless streak that was followed by the dismissal of coach Sigi Schmid during the team’s two-week international break, narrowing that route to the size of a goat path and leaving the team in desperate need of at least a point in Toronto on Saturday.
“I think everyone knows the urgency of the situation,” said Dominic Kinnear, promoted from assistant coach to manager after Schmid was forced out last Sunday. “We have six games left, still have a chance to make the playoffs. Nothing’s hidden here. Everyone takes responsibility for what’s gone on and what the record has been, myself included.”
Added goalkeeper David Bingham: “Everyone knows what’s at stake. We have to go there and get a result. That’s all there is to it.”
The analytical website FiveThirtyEight gives the Galaxy — who entered the weekend two places and three points out of the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot — an 11% chance of making it to the postseason. To overcome those odds, the Galaxy can’t afford to drop more than six points in its final six games, three of which are against Seattle, Vancouver and Kansas City, teams it trails in the standings.
Complicating the math is six of the seven teams in front of the Galaxy have played fewer games, giving them additional opportunities to earn points. If all that wasn’t enough, the Galaxy traveled to Toronto without midfielders Gio dos Santos (quadriceps) and Sebastian Lletget (abdominal strain).
Because of injuries, just two players — Bingham and defender Jorgen Skjelvik — have appeared in all 28 of the Galaxy’s games this season.
“It would be nice to play with a full deck of cards,” said Kinnear, who coached Houston to consecutive MLS Cup wins in 2006-07. “I’m sure Sigi would say the same thing. It didn’t happen very much for him this year.”
Toronto, the reigning MLS champion, has struggled to a 7-14-6 record this year, but the Galaxy have won just once there in seven tries. Plus the Galaxy (10-10-8) conceded 11 goals in their last two roads games and have allowed a conference-worst 54 for the season, so expect them to bunker down in front of their net Saturday.
“We have to do better defensively,” Bingham said. “I don’t think there’s any shying away from that.”
If they don’t, the odds that the Galaxy will miss the playoffs for just the fifth time in 23 years — and in consecutive seasons for the first time in a decade — will get better and the team’s route through to the postseason will get smaller.
Captain Ashley Cole, looking for something positive ahead of a match he called “a must-win game,” said the surprise firing of Schmid, the winningest coach in league history, could spark a turnaround.
“It’s never a good moment for a manager to leave. We didn’t expect it to happen now. Six games left, can we change it around?” he asked.