CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan said he can recall when he came into Major League Soccer 12 years ago and playing in some games that simply didn’t hold much importance. But that’s hardly the case now.
A look at the Western Conference standings indicates every game to the end of the regular season will impact the playoff picture.
“Yeah, it’s pretty crazy,” he said as the Galaxy (11-9-4, 37 pts.) prepared to take on Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10-8-6, 36 pts.) on Saturday at BC Place (6 p.m., Time Warner Cable Sportsnet, Time Warner Cable Deportes, 1150 AM, 1330 AM). “It’s going to be an interesting finish. It’s going to be 10 really good games.”
The current West standings show Real Salt Lake, which suffered a 4-2 drubbing at the hands of the Galaxy less than a week ago, in first with 42 points, followed by Colorado and Portland at 39, the Galaxy at 37 and Vancouver and FC Dallas at 36. Seattle, with 34 points, and San Jose with 33 points aren’t out of it, either as just nine points separate the top eight clubs in the West. The only team out of the race is bottom-feeding Chivas USA, who have 18 points and just one win since March.
The playoff picture is no clearer in the East, where Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls are tied atop the table with 39 points and the top five teams are separated by only three points.
“This is parity at its finest, I suppose,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said with a grin. “It means every game matters. It’s almost like a relegation system, from the bottom to the top. From that standpoint, it’s definitely exciting.”
If the Galaxy had been hoping for a chance to make up ground in which has been an inconstant season, this definitely is it. Saturday’s game, the teams’ third meeting of the season – the Galaxy won the last one, 2-1, on July 20 at StubHub Center -- will mark the Galaxy’s seventh consecutive game against a Western Conference opponent. The Whitecaps are led by Brazilian Camilo Sanvezzo, who scored in the last meeting between the two sides and is tied with Chicago’s Mike Magee for the MLS goal-scoring lead at 14.
Galaxy coaches and players haven’t tried to determine how many points it will take to make the playoffs – “How can you possibly try to figure that out?” head coach Bruce Arena asked – nor come up with any explanation why this year’s race is so tight.
“That’s a good question,” Dunivant said. “No one’s taken it by the horns. Usually one team goes on a long, consistent run and that hasn’t happened. Nobody’s pulled away with it.”
Added Landon Donovan, “It’s hard to say. No team has really gotten on any great run. Dallas started well, even Chivas had a good start early on, but no team has been able to sustain it. When we look at our season we’ve been pretty good the way we’ve played, but we haven’t consistently gotten the right results.
“I think we can look at maybe 8-10 games where we should have another point or another two points. That would propel you well into the league. But that hasn’t happened with any team, so we expect it’s going to be tight all the way to the end.”