CARSON, Calif – The LA Galaxy’s season finale against Seattle Sounders FC is loaded with postseason implications, but the primary one for the two-time defending champions is avoiding playing in the Knockout Round for a second consecutive season.
LA qualified for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs thanks to their 0-0 draw with San Jose on Sunday, but the result also eliminated the club’s hopes of winning the Supporters’ Shield. However, they could still finish in the top three of the West with a victory over Seattle on Sunday. Such a result would allow the Galaxy to avoid the Knockout Round and earn a few extra days of rest ahead of the postseason.
Playing in the Knockout Round game is familiar territory for LA as a year ago the Galaxy won their second straight MLS Cup title by defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the Knockout Round before knocking off the San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, and finally the Houston Dynamo to win the club’s fourth MLS championship.
However, with injuries to players like Landon Donovan (left ankle inflammation) and Omar Gonzalez (left hip strain) and another congested schedule, LA would much rather avoid the Knockout Round, which they can do by winning on Sunday or playing to a tie and seeing the Rapids fail to beat Vancouver in a game that starts one hour earlier than LA’s 6 p.m. (PT) kickoff. The Galaxy could even manage to finish in first place in the West if they win and Chivas USA beat or tie Real Salt Lake on Wednesday and Portland on Saturday.
In summation, while the Western Conference playoff field is all but set, there is still all to play for when it comes to seeding and the final matchups. As a result, teams are focused on doing what they can to avoid the Knockout Round.
“At this stage of the season there are a couple of guys with nagging injuries so the play-in game isn’t ideal, but we did it last year and did fine with it,” said Gonzalez, who exited LA’s scoreless draw with San Jose in the 73rd minute. “If we do get the play-in game, maybe we can use that game to sharpen up and be ready for the rest of the season if we get past it. If it’s the way we want it, we’re not playing in the play-in game.”
On Sunday, they’ll face a Seattle Sounders side that has been struggling as of late. Currently winless in their last six games, the Sounders have lost a club record four consecutive games to plummet down the Western Conference standings. At the forefront of their issues has been the stagnant play of highly-touted Designated Player Clint Dempsey, who has yet to score in his eight appearances with the team this season, as well as the recent inconsistent form of forwards Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins, each of who missed last weekend’s loss to FC Dallas because of injuries.
Regardless of Seattle’s issues as of late, the Galaxy are fully expecting a battle against a Seattle team that would avoid the Knockout Round with a win. Similar to the Galaxy, if Seattle win and other results go their way, the Sounders could enter the postseason as the top seed in the Western Conference.
“It will be a good game,” said Donovan. “We know what we have to do, we would love to avoid the play-in game but we also have the experience from last year from being able to win the championship if we have to go that route. We’ll try to win the game in Seattle and go from there.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com