CARSON, Calif. – So much for relaxing.
Los Angeles entered Saturday’s contest against Colorado on the verge of winning the Supporters’ Shield and clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
However, after a 3-1 loss to the Rapids at The Home Depot Center, the Galaxy could face a must-win scenario in their season-ending match against FC Dallas on Oct. 24.
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“We wanted to celebrate [Saturday] and we wanted to have next week to relax a little bit,” said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, “but maybe it will keep us sharp. We don’t have the ability to rest and relax; we have to keep going.”
If Real Salt Lake beat or tie Colorado on Oct. 23, the Galaxy must beat FC Dallas in order to win the Supporters’ Shield. Otherwise, the Galaxy would slip to second place and play the Western Conference's third-place team, which is currently Dallas.
Besides setting up a nail-biting season finish for LA, playoff-bound Colorado also broke the Galaxy’s run of fortune when scoring first.
Entering Saturday, the Galaxy held a spotless and tidy 16-0-0 record when they opened the scoring. In fact, in those 16 games, only once had the Galaxy even allowed their opponents to tie the match (June 5 against Houston). Otherwise, the Galaxy had never fallen behind when scoring first.
But that changed quickly against the Rapids.
Los Angeles got on the scoreboard first when Edson Buddle scored his league-leading and career-high 17th goal of the season in the ninth minute. The striker fired a shot from outside of the penalty area and saw it deflect off Drew Moor and into the back of the net.
In the 18th minute, though, the Galaxy conceded right back. Sean Franklin tried to clear a Rapids corner kick, but the ball ricocheted off Buddle and into the back of the net.
For his part, Franklin said it was a freak play.
“I was going for the ball to clear it. I got a foot to it and it ends up hitting Edson in the shoulder and going in,” said Franklin. “That’s just unlucky for us.”
Buddle, though, said he figured it was safe to start heading back on the attack when the ball came in.
“I saw Sean was going to clear the ball, so I was kind of running up the field,” Buddle said. “The ball hit me and went the other direction.”
That goal gave the Rapids the confidence to get back into the match and find a bit of rhythm, something ultimately frustrating for the Galaxy.
“Until they scored I thought we played really well,” said Donovan. “They had nothing and then they get a lucky goal. That kind of turns the game. That’s difficult.”
Colorado then took the lead in the 30th minute, when Omar Cummings set up Conor Casey from the right side of the penalty area.
Colorado hit the crossbar and the post over the next quarter hour until Cummings tucked a shot in from 15 yards out to extend the advantage to 3-1.
The Galaxy tried to pull one back – a late goal was called back for offside – but were simply unable to break through.
“I thought … we moved the ball well, we created some decent chances,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, “[but] our final pass, our cross in the second half, wasn’t there when we needed it.
“The couple of chances we had when we had a good look at the goal, we didn’t take well. We got punished for our mistakes.”
Giving the lead up and ultimately giving the game away was difficult for Galaxy defender Sean Franklin to accept.
“We had bad turnovers in certain spots of the field and they finished off their chances,” he said. “We had a chance to win the Shield [Saturday] and didn’t do that. It’s not a matter of if we were ready. We were. We just had a few turnovers in certain bad spots."
Saturday’s loss was definitely a tough pill to swallow, but should serve as a huge motivating factor for LA as they look ahead to Dallas.
Said Donovan: “We are bummed out, but we still control our own destiny and next week means everything.”