CARSON, Calif. – Before the Los Angeles Galaxy took the field against Columbus last Saturday, they had been mired in a months-long slump.
Against the Crew, though, the Galaxy hardly looked like a team that had slogged through the summer with just two league wins in eight games. Their comprehensive 3-1 victory, coupled with David Beckham’s return, likely signaled the end of their slump as the team appears to have rediscovered its motivation.
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“We’ve been really disappointed with how we’ve played, and that, more than anything, has motivated us,” Landon Donovan said after the match. “Also, I think there's a natural realization that other teams are catching up.
"It’s very important for us to win the Supporters' Shield and get home-field advantage in the playoffs. If it comes down to one game to go to MLS Cup, we want that game here.”
The Galaxy had a meager 2-4-2 record in their previous eight league games before Saturday. Without accumulating as many points as they had in the first half of the season, the Galaxy saw their lead over Columbus and Real Salt Lake diminish until it finally disappeared. Both teams had caught them as the trio were all even on 44 points by kickoff on Saturday.
Having one of their closest competitors before them may have been the catalyst for shaking off the cobwebs.
“For some reason, we haven’t had it right,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “The challenge to play a team of Columbus’ caliber obviously woke us up a little bit.”
Part of what played into the Galaxy’s success was their opponent. Because the Crew were interested in winning and not content with dropping numbers behind the ball and coming away with a draw, the match was not as tight as others had been recently.
“One of the issues in this league is so many teams fighting for playoff spots,” Arena said. "The games don’t open up. [Saturday], you had two good teams playing. They’re not sitting back — they’re going after each other, so it was a little more open than the games we’ve seen.”
With a partner who was ready to dance, the Galaxy did just that.
“We’ve gotten into a lot of games when we’re just dealing with seven to eight players we have to break down," Arena added. "It’s been difficult, but we haven’t brought the right kind of quality to the field. [On Saturday], our passing was sharper, our movement off the ball was better.”
The Galaxy play their next three games at the Home Depot Center (including an "away" fixture vs. Chivas USA), but the last thing players can do is to expect nine points to come without working too hard for them. Their performance against Columbus was good for just one night, and the effort must be repeated over and over if the team wants to make a run in the postseason.
“It doesn’t mean we’re out of [the slump],” Arena said. “We have to continue to move forward. We have an opportunity to play a couple of home games, and we’ve got to win. If we can consistently put some wins together and get some more points, then I’ll be satisfied we’re moving in the right direction as we move into the playoffs.”