CARSON, Calif. – Aside from having the pressure of defeating in-stadium rivals Chivas USA, the LA Galaxy had something else to think about before Sunday’s Honda SuperClásico.
Real Salt Lake beat New England on Saturday and sat on 51 points. For the first time since March, another MLS team had more points than the Galaxy.
“We had real pressure on us,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “Salt Lake won and we were in second.”
But the Galaxy responded to their challenge and staved off RSL for at least one more week as the SuperClásico went LA’s way once more. The Galaxy’s 2-1 win against the Goats, besides giving them an extra ounce of satisfaction, moved LA back into first place, albeit with a slim edge over RSL.
“Winning the Supporters’ Shield is really important for us, so this was a big game,” Donovan said. “It’s always going to be difficult against Chivas, whether they have 20 points or 50 points, it’s always a hard game. They played hard and give them credit, we’re still happy we won.”
RSL nearly had to settle for one point as New England leveled their match 1-1, but Alvaro Saborio provided a late winner that gave the Cobalt-and-Claret the three points.
While RSL have been one of the clubs chasing the Galaxy for the Supporters’ Shield, Galaxy players said their focus has been on their own team, not necessarily the reigning MLS Cup champions.
“We try not to [pay attention to RSL’s results],” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “We’ve obviously been on their mind all season, but we try and take it as our opponent, we try not to think about Salt Lake or anyone else. When we play Salt Lake, that’s when we’ll think about them.”
The Galaxy have won three of their last four games but have not been able to put much distance between themselves, Real Salt Lake and fellow Western rivals FC Dallas. Both of LA's Western Conference foes have gone through impressive runs of late: RSL’s last league loss was on July 17 while FC Dallas last tasted defeat on May 20, a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy at Pizza Hut Park.
While it may make it more interesting for the league, things have tightened up considerably for the Galaxy and there seems to be less room for error.
“[RSL] had an unbelievable run and have continued to push us. Dallas have done the same,” Dunivant said. “New York, Columbus are still up there. It’s great for the league. There could be five teams with over 50 points this year and I don’t know if that’s ever happened.”
The Galaxy, meanwhile, have not been as efficient, having lost five of their last 12 league games. But LA are at the front of the playoff chase and that counts for something, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said.
“It hasn’t been perfect. The last [four] games, we’ve won three. We’ve managed to keep our heads above water,” he said. “We’ve certainly got to get a little bit better, get a couple of players back on the field, but hopefully we can continue to move forward and improve as we get into the playoffs.”