LA Galaxy playing leapfrog in Western Conference race
CARSON, Calif. – It’s a good thing for the LA Galaxy that the playoffs don’t start today.
Depending on what day “today” happens to land on, one of a handful of Western Conference clubs would lay claim to the fifth and final playoff spot: One moment it’s Colorado, the next it’s the Galaxy, and then it could be Chivas USA, Portland or FC Dallas.
It’s enough to make your head spin. But the Galaxy players though have done well to keep any possible head-spinning to a minimum.
“I kind of look at it from time to time,” Galaxy defender Sean Franklin told MLSsoccer.com. “I try and not look at it because things are kind of close right now, it’s always changing week in and week out. We have our goal with what we want to do the rest of the season and if we do that we’re in the playoffs.”
In order to get to the postseason, though, the Galaxy must break apart from the pack they find themselves in now. They had been near or at the bottom of the conference for the season’s first three months, but four wins from their last six games have pushed them up the table.
The last few weeks though, LA have played leapfrog with Colorado, with Chivas, Portland and FC Dallas not far behind. Such coziness is probably something that won’t change anytime soon.
“If you haven’t noticed, this league is pretty bunched up and it’s going to remain bunched up,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “It’s probably going to get tighter than anyone getting distance from each other.”
While the minute details aren’t necessarily significant, players said they are aware of the standings.
“We always keep an eye on it,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “It’s not ‘Alright, are we in fifth or sixth?’ It’s not like that but certainly when we were in last place we wanted to make a big push coming out of that break and we’ve done a good job of that so far. We need to keep going.”
More than just the three points themselves, what helped the Galaxy make a rise up the table and stay within striking distance has been piling up points against their own conference. They've beaten three consecutive conference rivals – including Portland – when the club stormed out of the gate following the two-week international break in early June.
The Galaxy’s next six matches are against Western rivals, including games against the team’s current competition for the fifth spot – Portland (on Saturday, 11 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), Chivas USA (July 21 and Aug. 12) as well as FC Dallas (July 28).
“It’s actually an advantage for us, the unbalanced schedule,” Dunivant said. “We play all the Western Conference teams three times and you can make up a lot of ground quicker. From that perspective, it’s helped us. A lot of us weren’t pushing for that but in the end it’s helping us.”
Keeping an eye on the table now may be important but the club does not want the table to be the enemy at some point.
“We can’t put ourselves in a position where we have to win our last whatever it is [to make the playoffs],” Dunivant said. “You want to give yourself a chance to put yourself in good position, not just make the playoffs but put yourself in a good seeding. All that’s important and you do that by winning on Saturday [at Portland] and then winning on Wednesday [in Vancouver].”