CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy are through to the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Galaxy qualified with a scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes that allowed LA to earn their fifth consecutive playoff berth and the franchise's 15th. With the result, LA also help Seattle Sounders FC book a ticket into the postseason while essentially assuring a place for the Colorado Rapids due to their massive goals scored advantage on San Jose.
Currently in third place, the LA Galaxy can finish anywhere between first place in the Western Conference and fifth. If LA earn a win against Seattle at CenturyLink Field, however, they will assure themselves of a top three spot in the West. Draw and they'll need a Colorado loss or draw against Vancouver Whitecaps FC to avoid the Knockout Round.
Where will LA finish?
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CARSON, Calif. -- The playoff math is simple for the LA Galaxy on Sunday. A victory and the team will qualify for the postseason for the fifth consecutive time while also staying alive in the race for the top spot in the Western Conference.
A few links, matchups and a predicted lineup are below:
*If Donovan scores he'll take sole possession of Jeff Cunningham's all-time MLS goal scoring record.
*LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has a major question in central defense: Kofi Opare or Leonardo?
*Check out my preview of the match for LAGalaxy.com.
*Lastly, my Three Points to the match.
MATCH UPS TO WATCH:
Sean Franklin vs. Shea Salinas
Salinas has become the primary distributor in the Earthquakes offense, which means that Franklin will need to sut him down to take the air out of the San Jose attack. Expect Franklin to be physical with Salinas and limit his touches.
Robbie Keane vs. Clarence Goodson
Goodson has become a key part of San Jose's recent defensive resurrgence, but he'll face LA's wily captain, who will attempt to break the Earthquakes shell by drawing the defense out of position and exploiting any space provided.
LA GALAXY INSIDER PREDICTED LINEUP:
Penedo; Franklin, Gonzalez, Opare, Dunivant; Stephens, Sarvas, Juninho, Zardes; Donovan, Keane
CARSON, Calif. –The sting of Panama’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup will be with Jaime Penedo for some time, but with the LA Galaxy fighting for an MLS Cup championship, the goalkeeper knows that he must recover immediately.
Penedo’s nation went down in dramatic fashion on Tuesday by allowing two stoppage time goals to the U.S. to fall 3-2 ending any hopes of qualifying for Brazil. Even though he returned from Central America days later, Penedo admits that the lingering effects of the loss still remain with him.
“It’s tough especially with the way that it happened. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard for me to go to bed right now,” Penedo admitted. “When I go to sleep, I wake up and think that I’m still going to play the game, but unfortunately, we’re not going to play the game. As they say, ‘from every failure, you must learn for it to be better.
“I’m in a team that is going for a title so the best thing that I can do is put myself 100 percent into the Galaxy and try to win an MLS Cup championship,” Penedo, who is 4-1-2 in seven appearances with the Galaxy accumulating three shutouts, said.
After returning from Panama, Penedo admits that his Galaxy teammates have been extremely supportive helping to lift him after the crushing defeat. But ultimately, only Penedo can fully bounce back and that has him extremely anxious to take the field against the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
“I’m very anxious to play. The best medicine right now is to get back on the field and win, so that I can get rid of the taste of that loss,” said Penedo. “But at the same time, I have to be mindful of not being overanxious because we have a tough two games ahead and I need to prepare the best that I can for those two games and the playoffs. I’m anxious, but I’m also mindful of what is ahead.”
Penedo might not be qualifying for Brazil, but the goalkeeper admits that leading the Galaxy to an MLS Cup title will take some of the sting out of his disappointment.
“What happened with the national team is something that is always going to be with me,” said Penedo. “But winning would no doubt be very gratifying.”
CARSON, Calif. – It looks like Omar Gonzalez is returning to the starting lineup for the LA Galaxy, but who will be joining him in central defense?
The two front runners for the position right now appear to be rookie Kofi Opare and veteran center back Leonardo, who each excelled during LA’s 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday. Opare, who scored the game winner against Montreal, has started four of the LA Galaxy’s last six regular season games in central defense including two matches with Gonzalez when Leonardo went down with left adductor fatigue after LA’s 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC on Sept. 21. Prior to Leonardo’s injury, however, he had started seven consecutive league matches for the Galaxy dating back to the start of August.
It also bears mentioning that defender A.J. DeLaGarza is continuing to recover from a dislocated left elbow while second-year defender Tommy Meyer filled in for an injured Gonzalez on Oct. 6 against Chivas USA.
“I think it’s great that we have so much depth and how far all these guys have come along especially with Kofi being a rookie and not really thinking about getting a sniff at the beginning of the year,” said Gonzalez. “Now here he is starting games and doing really well. I couldn’t be happier for him, Leonardo is always solid and with A.J. we’re stoked to get him back because he’s been such a solid good defender and part of so much of our success.”
Who do you want to start alongside Gonzalez?
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CARSON, Calif. – A left hip strain kept LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez off the field in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact, but by the time that Sunday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes rolls around, Gonzalez expects to be in the starting XI for LA.
Gonzalez returned to full training earlier this week and even though he is still feeling soreness in his left hip, the Galaxy center back asserts that he “will be playing” against San Jose.
“I'm feeling better. I think this week and a half to rest was good for me. I'm still not feeling amazing, but that doesn't matter at this point out the year,” said Gonzalez. “You just have to grind it out and I'll be ready for Sunday.”
Gonzalez’s confidence was echoed by head coach Bruce Arena who told reporters on Friday that he “anticipates” that the defender and forward Landon Donovan will be back in the starting lineup. However, associate head coach Dave Sarachan admitted that the team is being patient to a certain extent with both of their stars.
“They’re day-to-day and we've had to monitor them,” said Sarachan. “The hope is that we'll have a full lineup on Sunday. These guys are good pros and they're going to do whatever they can to get on the field.”
Who should play alongside Gonzalez on Sunday?
CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan’s ankle injury may have been more severe than the LA Galaxy forward initially thought, but he has no plans to let it hamper him as he looks to help LA clinch a berth in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs on Sunday.
Donovan was unavailable for Wednesday’s 1-0 victory with the Montreal Impact due to a left ankle inflammation, which forced him to exit early from international duty with the U.S. National Team last week. With the Galaxy facing a situation where a draw or a victory against the San Jose Earthquakes puts them through to the postseason, Donovan believes that the time is now to get back on the field.
“The ankle is not great, but we’re going to try to play. This is the time of the year where you just have to get through it,” said Donovan on Friday following LA's penultimate training session before the California Clasico. “I've been out long enough and I miss playing with these guys. I want to do whatever I can to help contribute. I know what this means so we’re going to try to play.
“Realistically, I’ve been told that I need six weeks of rest, but that’s obviously not going to happen. Even getting four or five days helps a little bit,” he added. “It’s still going to be painful, but you just cross your fingers that you don’t do further damage."
Even the traditionally guarded head coach Bruce Arena noted that the team is “anticipating” that Donovan and center back Omar Gonzalez (left hip strain) will be able to play against the Quakes on Sunday after both were unable to participate against the Impact.
If Donovan does take part, he'll have the opportunity to take sole possession of the MLS all-time leading goal scoring record as he is currently tied with Jeff Cunningham at 134 goals. Although being so close to such a career milestone may be distracting, Donovan admits that he’s put little thought into breaking record due to LA’s tough postseason chase.
“If it happens great, if it doesn't then hopefully I’ll be able to do it at some point. I don’t think about ti as much as other people do, right now, the focus is on getting in the playoffs,” said Donovan. “Maybe I’m different in that way that it doesn't really occur to me. I’m confident that it will happen at some point, but if I don’t score for the next 15 league games, I’m not worried about it. I just want to win.”
Think Donovan should play? Rather LA save him for Seattle?
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CARSON, Calif. – To shut down MLS leading goal scorer Marco Di Vaio, the LA Galaxy needed to be constantly cognizant of the forward’s drifting runs behind the defense and with a little help from goalkeeper Brian Rowe that mission was accomplished.
The Montreal Impact tested LA early on as they found space behind a high line created by the Galaxy back four, but the home side adjusted quickly with some aid from the backup ‘keeper. Montreal was caught offside a whopping eight times in their 1-0 defeat to the Galaxy, but when LA wasn't able to keep their attack under wraps, Rowe came and bailed out the defense.
When Di Vaio, strike partner Andrew Wenger or any other Impact attacker drifted behind the defense, Rowe marched off his line to clear out the danger.
“We knew coming in, that [Di Vaio] probably leads the league in offside [calls], so we knew he sort of wanted to sneak in and try to find those through balls,” said Rowe, who made two recoveries and two clearances to go with a pair of saves on Wednesday in his fourth MLS start. “The back line did a great job staying together and holding their line, dropping when they need too, and I was able to stay off my line a little bit to sniff those out.”
Goal scorer Kofi Opare offered Rowe a “ten out of ten” for his performance, but he wasn’t the only one who was pleased with the backup ‘keeper.
“He needs to be active and get off his line. I think with [Marco] Di Vaio on the field, he’s always going to be a player pursuing opportunities in the penalty area,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “If you don’t come off your line, he’s going to knick one. I thought Brian Rowe’s aggressiveness was a big part of our success today.”
With starter Jaime Penedo bound to return to the starting XI for Sunday's San Jose Earthquakes after returning from international duty on Thursday, Rowe will once again return to the bench until LA's CONCACAF Champions League finale against Isidro Metapan on Oct. 24. After racking up the second shutout of his young career, Rowe couldn't help but reflect on a season that has seen him develop from a third string ‘keeper at the start of the season to a confident starter.
“It's been very cool. It’s been unexpected if I wanted to look back [at the start of the year] at what I thought my role would be on the team,” said Rowe. “I've taken it in stride and I’m so excited that I can’t say.”
We're coming in on the last two MLS regular season games of the year, so I have a simple question: who is your LA Galaxy team MVP for the 2013 season?
I've limited the number of candidates down to my top six candidates, but if you disagree with one of my selections, let me know in the comments section below.
We heard about the dates for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs a few weeks ago and now we have official confirmation as the league released the postseason schedule on Thursday.
The playoffs will span from Oct. 30 (Knockout Round) to Dec. 7 (MLS Cup) with the league observing the international fixture date in the third week of November.
The complete schedule is below...
Knockout Games: Oct. 30-31 (Wed.-Thurs.)
Conference Semifinals, Leg 1: Nov. 2-3 (Sat.-Sun.)
Conference Semifinals, Leg 2: Nov. 6-7 (Wed.-Thurs.)
Conference Finals, Leg 1: Nov. 9-10 (Sat.-Sun.)
Conference Finals, Leg 2: Nov. 23-24 (Sat.-Sun.)
MLS Cup: Dec. 7 (Sat.)
Think the Galaxy will be able to traverse the postseason and qualify for MLS Cup yet again?
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Robbie Keane had quite the last 48 hours.
After going the distance in Ireland's World Cup qualifying victory over Kazakhstan on Tuesday, he hopped on a transcontintential flight bound for Southern California, and was on the field for the LA Galaxy by Wednesday evening. I chronicle Keane's journey from Ireland to StubHub Center for LA's match in this piece for LAGalaxy.com.
Keane's full conversation with reporters after the game is below.