A ‘must win’ for Galaxy? Well, close
It would be premature to call Saturday night’s Western Conference clash with Real Salt Lake a “must win” for the Galaxy, but Coach Bruce Arena and his players felt a sense of urgency heading into the game, which kicks off the final third of the regular season.
Nine of the Galaxy’s last 11 games are against Western Conference opponents, so the reigning champions wanted to send a strong message in their third and final meeting against the Royals (12-7-5), who arrived at StubHub Center with a league-best 41 points.
“We have what it takes,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “We’ve been playing very well and it depends on whether we can put it together in time. We’ve let some results slip away from us, but other than one game we haven’t really been outplayed.”
Every point is crucial in the West, where the Galaxy (10-9-4) entered Saturday’s match with 34 points, tied with Seattle for fifth and the last playoff berth but only two points behind second-place Vancouver and Colorado.
“This is when the important games start,” said defender Omar Gonzalez, who was named the Galaxy’s third designated player Wednesday.
“It’s pretty crazy a win can put you in second and a loss can drop you to seventh.”
Gonzalez has anchored the Galaxy’s back line during its run to back-to-back MLS Cups. The 24-year-old called signing a new multiyear deal “an honor” and believes the long trip has given the team a chance to build chemistry.
“You want to win as many as possible,” said forward Robbie Keane, who missed the Galaxy’s first two games against Real Salt Lake because of injury and international competition but assisted on the first of Landon Donovan’s three goals in last Sunday’s 3-3 tie at FC Dallas, which snapped L.A.’s three-game road losing streak.
“It’s a point on the road and we’re feeling good about where we’re at and where we’re going,” said Donovan, whose fourth MLS hat trick gave him 130 goals to move within four of all-time league leader Jeff Cunningham. “The majority of our games now are in conference, so the team that can win three or four in a row is going to jump significantly in the standings.”
Dunivant is optimistic the Galaxy will once again qualify for the postseason.
“If we continue to play the way we have, we’re going to be dangerous down the stretch,” he said.