CARSON, Calif. – Since the start of the 2010 season, the LA Galaxy have played some of the best soccer of any team in the league.
On Saturday, they could reap the rewards.
A win over the Colorado Rapids at home and the Supporters’ Shield could be the Galaxy’s, backing up the players’ claims that their club truly is the best in Major League Soccer.
“If we do it with a big cushion, that would say a lot about what we’ve done this year,” LA captain Landon Donovan said. “I know there’s been some bumpy patches but I know we’ve been the best team this year.”
Winning MLS Cup would be the pinnacle of their season and is their ultimate goal, but claiming the Supporters’ Shield would be something to show off and be proud of before the rest of MLS.
“If you ask guys around the league what means the most, MLS Cup obviously is the most special because you are winning a trophy,” Donovan said. “But I think guys are most impressed with a team that does it from Day One to Week 30 and that’s difficult to do. I’ve always been most impressed with the teams that can do that.”
Standing in the Galaxy’s way, however, are Colorado. The Rapids are desperate for their own playoff spot and need just one more point to claim the eighth and final playoff spot.
But the Galaxy have their own needs to meet, and winning the Supporters’ Shield would fit right into their plan for the postseason.
“If we win this weekend, maybe we can rest some important guys going into the playoffs,” defender Omar Gonzalez said. “It would give us more time to just worry about the playoffs and not have to go into the last game going with everything we’ve got. We’re still going to play hard but it would take a big weight off our shoulders.”
The Galaxy would indeed be able to rest players against FC Dallas, if coach Bruce Arena saw fit. A win against Colorado would mean that the FCD match could not change LA’s playoff standing. They could still win the Shield with a loss to the Rapids, but Donovan wants to take care of business on Saturday.
“One is you want to do it as quickly as possible,” he said. “Two, you don’t want to give any other teams a chance to catch you. Three, for those of us who have had a long year, it would be nice to have some rest … and also get some guys some playing time against Dallas.”
In playing the Rapids, the Galaxy could see a team they will meet up against in the playoffs. Colorado sit in sixth place in the Western Conference but are just three points out from the fourth-place Seattle Sounders. If Colorado were to overtake both the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle, the Galaxy would open the playoffs at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, provided they remain in first place.
But before trying to dissect any sort of playoff series, Galaxy defenders are focused on slowing down one of the league’s most productive forward tandems. Omar Cummings and Conor Casey have combined for 23 goals this season.
“The most important thing is just keeping those guys in front of us because I think the danger is behind us,” Gonzalez said. “Omar Cummings is so fast and Casey can hold the ball up and just put him through. We just have to make sure we put pressure on Casey and keep an eye on Omar Cummings.”
The Rapids have more at stake now than they did on May 5 when the Galaxy took a 1-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
“Us and Colorado always have intense games ever since my first year,” Gonzalez said. “They’re going to come here and are just going to want to get that win. Everyone’s trying to fight for the playoffs and I definitely think they’re going to come in here and play hard.”