With their season hanging in the balance, the Galaxy had no room for error Sunday. So they didn’t make any, running out to a three-goal lead and hanging on for a 3-1 victory over Minnesota United in front of a record 52,242 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Galaxy (13-11-9) stayed alive in the MLS playoff race, moving to within a point of Real Salt Lake for the sixth and final spot in the Western Conference. The Galaxy will finish the regular season at home against Houston next Sunday and need a victory to overtake Salt Lake, which has finished its regular-season schedule.
“It’s still not over,” said interim coach Dominic Kinnear, who has guided the Galaxy to three victories and a tie in five games since taking over for Sigi Schmid last month. “We accomplished a win on the road, which puts us in a spot next week where we can maybe get into the playoffs.
“It’s been a good little run we’ve been on.”
And it’s a run that has been led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored for the fifth consecutive game to get the Galaxy started. Ibrahimovic’s place in the starting lineup was questionable until game time since he hasn’t tested his surgically repaired right knee by starting a game on artificial turf all season, and the one at TCF Bank Stadium is considered one of the worst surfaces in the league.
But with the season on the line, Ibrahimovic not only played, but gave the Galaxy a lead they would never surrender, scoring on a header in the 30th minute, his 22nd goal.
“Our playoffs started five games ago because we needed to win to make it still possible to make the playoffs,” Ibrahimovic said. “To play under pressure like that is not easy. We are controlling it very well and we play with confidence.”
The Galaxy are 9-2-4 in games in which Ibrahimovic scores and 4-9-5 when he doesn’t. Ibrahimovic and Roy Lassiter in 1996 are the only MLS players to have two five-game goal-scoring streaks in the same season.
The team’s other goals came from Ola Kamara and Romain Alessandrini a minute apart early in the second half, the last off an assist from Ibrahimovic, his team-leading 10th.
Minnesota, which drew a state-record crowd for a soccer game in what is expected to be its final game at TCF Bank Stadium, got a goal from Angelo Rodriguez in the 53rd minute. It was only the second goal the Galaxy have given up in the last four games.