CARSON, Calif. – There can be no denying the importance of Saturday’s match between the LA Galaxy (9-8-3, 30 points) and visiting Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9-5-5, 32 points) at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Time Warner Cable Deportes, 1150 AM, 1330 AM, LIVECHAT).
It’s certainly critical in terms of helping soothe the two-time defending MLS Cup champions’ collective psyche after surrendering their eighth stoppage-time goal of the season in last Saturday’s stunning 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers. But it’s important in another area as well.
The Galaxy have 14 regular-season games remaining, and all but two of them are against Western Conference rivals. The lone exceptions are a road game against D.C. United on Sept. 15 and a home match against the Montreal Impact on Oct. 16.
Otherwise, all of the games – aside from upcoming friendlies and CONCACAF Champions League matches – are against teams in the West. It hasn’t reached a make-or-break point during the regular season, but it’s getting there.
“It’s another six-pointer,” defender Todd Dunivant said, referring to Saturday’s game against a Vancouver team that has not lost in the league since June 8. “We can climb up the standings really quickly. On the reverse side we can fall real quickly.
“These are big games.”
The Galaxy, currently fifth in the West with 30 points, trail first place Real Salt Lake (37 points) by seven points, but the next three teams, Portland (third with 33), Vancouver (32), and FC Dallas (31) are all within reaching distance of Bruce Arena’s squad meaning that a win on Saturday could vault the defending champs all the way up to a second place tie.
They will be taking on a Whitecaps side that has been led by Brazilian forward Camilo Sanvezzo who has scored an MLS-best 12 goals, with nine of those goals coming in the last seven games. He will likely be joined up front by Designated Player Kenny Miller, who has six goals and 20-year-old Russell Tiebert, who is healthy after falling ill during the Gold Cup. The pacey winger has a team-best six assists on the season and came off the bench to score twice (the first two goals of his MLS career) in Vancouver’s 3-1 win over the Galaxy in May.
“It’s a very dangerous team going forward,” Galaxy goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini said of Vancouver. “It’s a difficult team to play against.”
The Whitecaps are unbeaten in their last six games and are in the midst of a 5-0-1 streak since a 3-2 defeat at Seattle on June 8. However, just two of those six games have been on the road where Martin Rennie’s side are just 2-5-2 on the season. The Galaxy, conversely, haven’t lost at home since the Houston Dynamo beat them 1-0 on May 5 and are 6-1-2 at home in league play. Additionally, LA are 3-0-0 all-time at home against the Whitecaps and have outscored them 8-0 in that time while also dumping them out of the playoffs last season with a 2-1 win in the Western Conference Knockout Round.
“When we played them at their place, they had a lot of energy, a lot of emotion,” Todd Dunivant said following training earlier this week. “They came out strong and it made a big difference in the game.
“This will be a good challenge for us.”
And fellow defender Omar Gonzalez, who will leave after Saturday’s match to join his teammates on the U.S. National Team competing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, is confident the Galaxy will respond as well.
“I know we have the players and the character to always be able to bounce back from anything,” he said, referring to last weekend’s loss in Portland. “We’ve shown it time and time again, we have a lot of heart in our team.”