Galaxy aim to beat Crew to keep distance in Western race

Landon Donovan

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At first glance, Wednesday’s match in Costa Rica might have cost the LA Galaxy more than points in the tournament.

David Beckham accompanied the club from Central America to Ohio, where the Galaxy are set to take on the Columbus Crew on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), but has returned home and will not play.

Why the move? Was it a bad reaction to the match and the artificial surface he was forced to play on? Perhaps a lingering injury? Or is it something worse?

Not quite.

“He hasn’t played in three games in a week the whole year,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said on Friday. “That’s how we’ve done it the entire year.”

Without Beckham, the Galaxy will try and pick up three crucial points in the race to claim the club’s second consecutive Supporters’ Shield. LA lead Seattle and hard-charging Real Salt Lake by seven points and distancing themselves from them is a top priority.

“Salt Lake continues to put pressure on us, Seattle continues to put pressure on us, so while we have a nice little cushion, that can go away quickly if we lose a game or two and those other teams keep winning,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “It’s an important game. It’s on the road, which makes it a bit more difficult, but there are only five games left, so we have to get as many points as we can.”

In order to do so, the Galaxy will rely on Donovan to pace the team. The 2009 MLS MVP will likely be responsible for set pieces in Beckham’s absence, although Juninho has also had success on free kicks this year.

And with Robbie Keane also in question – he did not train with the team due to tightness in his right gluteus – other players will have to fill some holes.

“We’ve had a lot of games lately and we have a lot of games coming up the next few weeks,” Donovan said. “It’s unfortunate that we’ll be without David and possibly without Robbie, but it’s all part of it. That’s why you have a team of 25, 26, 27 players. There will be some other guys who will have a chance to play.”

Due to their 1-0 loss against Alajuelense in Costa Rica on Wednesday, the Galaxy face a must-win match against Morelia on Sept. 28 if the club is to keep its CONCACAF Champions League hopes alive.

Despite that, Arena insisted the team he’ll send out against Columbus will be with only the Crew in mind, and not Monarcas.

“We’re going to worry about the Wednesday game after the Columbus game; the first priority is the game against the Crew,” Arena said. “We’re going to put a team on the field that we think can win the game. … I’m not going to sort out a lineup until tomorrow. We’ll see how guys come through the game, the travel, all that, before making a decision.”

While the Galaxy are fighting for the Supporters’ Shield, Columbus are also fighting in their own playoff race. Just one point separates the Crew from Sporting KC, and two points from the Philadelphia Union and Houston Dynamo as they jockey for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference.

Combined with the team’s first sellout since 2009, the Galaxy can expect a challenging match.

“Columbus is a very good team … at home and they have been for years,” Donovan said. “We know they will be excited, a sellout crowd, they’ll be up for it. They gave us a difficult game [at the Home Depot Center on July 20], so we expect an emotional game from them, a lot of energy, and it’s going to be a good night, a good game.”