CARSON, Calif. – It was a confident and relieved LA Galaxy who returned to the training field Tuesday in preparation for the upcoming MLS Cup playoffs.
It didn’t matter they still don’t know who they will be facing in the Western Conference Semifinals, with the home-and-home series beginning Sunday at either Colorado, Columbus or New York, depending on the results of the Wild Card Matches on Wednesday and Thursday. The Galaxy simply know they’re ready for the real games to begin.
“We’re focused and we’ve been focused the whole season on this one goal,” Adam Cristman said. “We all believe in each other and we believe we can win in any situation we get put in.”
They’ve certainly had their share of those “situations” this season, from high-profile friendlies to the U.S. Open Cup, the MLS regular season and the CONCACAF Champions League. During one stretch they played a staggering nine matches in 30 days.
Now, however, they can concentrate on only the MLS postseason. And they’re thankful for it.
“What’s great is the end is near,” central defender Omar Gonzalez said. “We’ve been looking at this since the very beginning. We’ve been thinking about where we want to be. We wanted to win the Supporters’ Shield. We did that. We wanted to qualify for the Champions League [quarterfinals]. We did that.
“Now the time has come. Now we can just focus on one game at time. That’s it.”
Added goalkeeper Josh Saunders about the compacted schedule, “There’s a means to an end for everything. That’s maybe something that’s prepared us for the playoffs with the upcoming schedule. Hopefully it will benefit us and we can come through.”
Associate head coach Dave Sarachan, who ran Tuesday’s practice session in the absence of Bruce Arena, said this is as optimistic as he’s felt about the Galaxy in the three seasons he’s been with the club.
“It just feels good, it feels ready,” he said. “We have a good blend of guys that have been there before, and they know what these next few weeks mean.
“I think given that, this group is excited about the postseason, mentally and hopefully physically ready to get going.”
Left back Todd Dunivant said he’s been particularly impressed with the team’s resiliency.
“It’s been a long year, and I think our consistency throughout the year kind of tells everything,” he said. “We haven’t had stretches, I think every season you kind of go through lulls, and we haven’t done that. We’ve been focused the whole year and sharp the whole year.
“Going into the playoffs we feel sharp. We’re 100 percent ready.”
The team, he went on, never lost sight of its main goal.
“Our mission’s clear,” he said. “We kind of came into this year knowing MLS Cup was everything to us. That’s still our No. 1 goal overall. We wanted to [advance in the] Champions League, we wanted to win Supporters’ Shield. MLS Cup is where you make your bones in this league, and that’s what we need to do. No doubt we’re focused for it.”