CARSON, Calif. – There is no denying the fact it’s getting to be now or never for the LA Galaxy.
The two-time defending champion are on the MLS playoff bubble as they enter the final third of the regular season and simply need wins to improve their position, which is tenuous to say the least. Saturday’s game against Western Conference-leading Real Salt Lake at StubHub Center (7:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsNet, Wime Warner Cable Deportes, KTLK 1150-AM, KWKW 1330-AM, LIVECHAT) is one of nine games left in the regular season that are against conference rivals. The only ones that aren’t are Sept. 14 at D.C. United and Oct. 16 at home against Montreal.
“This is when the important games start,” said central defender Omar Gonzalez, who was named the Galaxy’s third Designated Player on Wednesday. “Right now the West is really close. One win can put you into second place, and a loss can put you at seventh.
“It’s pretty crazy right now.”
The Galaxy (10-9-4, 34 points) are currently tied for fifth in the West with Seattle (10-7-4, 34 points) but trail Colorado and Vancouver, who are tied for second place, by only two points meaning that a win on Saturday could see LA climb all the way up to second depending upon the result of the Rapids-Whitecaps FC game earlier in the day. Real Salt Lake (12-7-5) have a league-high 41 points.
“Every game now certainly is a must-win with the standings,” the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane acknowledged. “You try to win as many as possible.”
In Real Salt Lake the Galaxy are taking on an old rival with whom they have split their previous two meetings this season, with both games at Rio Tinto Stadium. Galaxy rookie Charlie Rugg scored in his professional debut in a 2-0 victory on April 27, but Real Salt Lake got two goals from Olmes Garcia in the final 10 minutes in the rematch six weeks later for a 3-1 victory.
Real Salt Lake, led by the likes of Alvaro Saborio (9 goals) and Javier Morales (5 goals, 7 assists), are 3-1-1 in their last five road matches, with the lone loss a 4-3 defeat to the Red Bulls on July 27. Before that, Real Salt Lake hadn’t been beaten on the road since a 3-2 loss at Montreal on May 11.
“Salt Lake has the most points in the league, they’re playing very well right now and they’re getting results whether they play well or they don’t,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us, without a doubt. It’s a big game and we have to be ready.”
The Galaxy’s goal has to remain simple, according to Landon Donovan. It has everything to do with taking care of business.
“These are games we need points out of,” he said. “The majority of our games now are against Western Conference teams, so it’s going to be a dogfight the whole way. And the team that can win two or three or four games in a row is going to jump significantly up the table.
“That has to be our goal.”