CARSON, Calif. — With four games remaining on their schedule, the Los Angeles Galaxy do not have to worry about reaching the MLS playoffs.
Where they finish in the Western Conference standings, though, is still up in the air.
The Galaxy clinched a playoff game after their 24th game of the season. They can finish first in the Western Conference with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs or they could find themselves hosting the first playoff game of the Western Conference semifinals and having to travel for the second leg.
However, the Galaxy want nothing more than to finish atop the table and claim the Supporters’ Shield. For them, the march to the postseason begins against rivals Chivas USA.
The Galaxy play two road games before closing out the season slate with a pair of home matches. Sunday's game against Chivas is technically an away game, but the club will hit the road for real Thursday when they play at Philadelphia.
"The goal is to win as many [games] as we can," Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. "We know this [game against Chivas] is a game we should win. Philly [on Oct. 7] is a game we should win we think. Then we have some games at home to finish the season. It's very possible to win all four."
Prior to their weekend matches, the Galaxy are sitting on 50 points, good for a two-point edge over Real Salt Lake. FC Dallas are in third place with 46 points while Colorado are further back, with 41.
Donovan said the scales are tipped in the Galaxy’s favor.
“We got a little lucky with Salt Lake tying at home [against Colorado last week]. That helped us out a little bit,” Donovan said. “Salt Lake have a difficult schedule, too, … [and] Dallas, they’re going to have keep going to get close to us.”
Still, supposedly winnable games against non-playoff teams are tricky, Donovan said.
"With teams like this, there is nothing to lose," he said. "We played [D.C. United] a few weeks ago and they just came out with an attitude that said, 'We're going to try things, we're going to be aggressive and we're going to go for it.'
“When you play teams that are in the playoff run, things are tighter. They are more scared to make mistakes."
With Chivas not going to the postseason, the match will already be tricky for the Galaxy. That Chivas and the Galaxy have a long history between them, a mostly one-sided history, could only further complicate matters.
"Chivas are going to have the same attitude [that DC came out with]. They have nothing to lose, so they're going to be freewheeling and they're just going to go for it," Donovan said. "We just have to make sure that they know we're the team that's headed to the playoffs."