CARSON, Calif. – There are a number of MLS games which are among the most anticipated of the season. Games between rivals always have an added element, as do battles such as last weekend’s LA Galaxy-Columbus Crew clash at The Home Depot Center. Featuring two of the top teams in MLS and with the league’s best record on the line, the intensity levels were high for both sides throughout the 90 minutes with the Galaxy coming out on top 3-1. Equally as important as the result, the Galaxy produced one of their best performances in months.
On the flip side of that equation are games like Saturday’s between the Galaxy, with their league-best 47 points and D.C. United, who are rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just five wins and 18 points on the season. On paper it is a clear mismatch and despite the two teams’ illustrious histories, definitely does not rank among the league’s marquee matchups this season. But don’t think the Galaxy are overlooking D.C. United one bit.
Galaxy coaches and players are preparing for what they consider to be a formidable opponent that is coming off a 1-0 victory at Toronto FC and has lost just once in its last four visits to Southern California. They expect nothing but the best from their Eastern Conference rivals and know that, as far as the Galaxy are concerned, a letdown is not an option.
“We have a harder time with teams down in the standings than teams at the top of the standings,” head coach Bruce Arena said Thursday. “If we don’t play well and hard for 90 minutes, we’ll lose the game.
“I think if anybody knows that it’s our team. Hopefully we’ve learned from previous letdowns.”
Arena said it has been easy to prepare for this game because of its implications. The Galaxy (14-5-5) remain in the thick of the race for not only the top seed in the Western Conference for the upcoming playoffs, but the Supporters' Shield as well, which goes to the team with the best record in MLS.
“There’s no magic potion to put together,” Arena said. “They understand how important these games are.”
Edson Buddle, who scored his league-leading 14th goal against the Crew, said it’s important the Galaxy puts last Saturday’s impressive effort behind them.
“We just want to forget about the last game and move forward with the same attitude,” he said. “It’s happened in the past, where you have a good game one week and then the next one, you’re not so hot. You don’t want to take D.C. for granted.”
David Beckham, who made his first appearance of the season last Saturday after missing almost six months because of a torn left Achilles tendon, said he is confident the Galaxy won’t be overlooking United, which is 2-5-0 in their last seven league games.
“That’s what you have to be careful of,” he said. “If you are inexperienced as a team and you take games lightly, there’s upsets. We know D.C. got a good result the last game in Toronto, and they’ll be confident with that.
“Every team that comes here wants to beat us and wants to put on a good show. We know the game on Saturday is going to be a tough one and we have to be prepared for that.”
Central defender Omar Gonzalez said he’s trying to ignore any thoughts of a possible letdown.
“I try not to think about that,” he said. “They aren’t doing very well, but the way they’re thinking right now is they don’t want to be the worst team in the league. They’re going to come out on fire.
“Each game matters now, and we have to start building to the way we were playing at the start of the season and end it the same way.”
Landon Donovan said he considers a game like Saturday’s to be particularly challenging.
“I actually enjoy it,” he said. “The Columbus game we knew we were going to be up for. The question now is, are we going to be up for this game?
“It’s smashed between the Columbus game and the New York game next week. This, for me, is a very important game. We can talk about it all we want, but if guys don’t realize it on their own, we could struggle.”