CARSON, Calif. – It was almost four months ago that the LA Galaxy were at their low point of the season.
They had just lost on the road to the Houston Dynamo 2-1 to drop to an embarrassing 3-8-2 and were last in the Western Conference. It wasn’t exactly shaping up to be another banner year for the defending MLS Cup champions.
But look where they are now, tied for third in the West and having a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a victory Saturday over Toronto FC at The Home Depot Center (7:30 p.m., KDOC, KWHY, 1330 AM, LIVECHAT).
“We’ve definitely come a long way,” Mike Magee said after Friday’s training session. “It’s crazy to think how good a form we’ve been in and we’re only in third place. Barely in third place, with Salt Lake.
“It’s crazy to think we dug ourselves that big of a hole. But we know the work’s not done.”
Central defender Omar Gonzalez, who missed a good portion of the season recovering from major offseason knee surgery and returned to the lineup in a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on July 4, called the team’s poor start “beyond frustrating.” He remembered that period as being fraught with finger-pointing and featuring an almost pervasive negativity.
“I didn’t really know what was going on,” he said. “When I did start practicing I think that’s when people started playing better. When I came back is when we really started playing well.
“I’m happy about that. To be where we are now is a great position to be.”
The Galaxy (14-11-4, 46 points) take on a Toronto FC (5-17-7, 22 points) team that owns the league’s worst record, has given up an MLS-high 51 goals and has had trouble, to say the least, on the road this season. Their last road win, in fact, was a 2-1 victory at New England on July 14.
Toronto, which changed coaches (from Aron Winter to Paul Mariner) following an 0-9-0 start, last won on July 18, a 2-1 decision over Colorado. They are 0-6-3 since then, including a 1-1 tie with Philadelphia six days ago.
The Galaxy’s Landon Donovan cautioned Toronto is not a team to be taken lightly. All he and his teammates have to do is think back to CONCACAF Champions League play in early March, when the Galaxy tied Toronto on the road and then lost the second leg at home seven days later, resulting in their elimination in the quarterfinals.
“We weren’t exactly at our best early in the year,” Donovan said Friday, “but they’re a much-improved team, even from when we played them. I think Paul Mariner has done a really good job. You can tell they have a different attitude, a different mentality. They really believe they can win every game, regardless of where they are in the standings.
“They’ve played a lot of good playoffs teams very difficult. We gotta be alert.”
Saturday's match is also Alumni Night! Get to the stadium early to watch Galaxy alumni including Cobi Jones, Clint Mathis, Mauricio Ciengfuegos, Alexi Lalas and many more take on the U-18 Academy squad in a pregame match starting at 5:30pm! Wear your throwback Galaxy jerseys as we celebrate the 10-year Anniversary of the Galaxy's first MLS Cup Championship. More info on Alumni Night can be found here.