Galaxy jockey for playoff position at altitude against Rapids

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy know what's ahead as their battle with Real Salt Lake and Seattle for Western Conference seeding gets serious the next few weeks, but they're certainly not overlooking the lowly Colorado Rapids, their opponent Sunday (7 pm ET, Galavision) in Commerce City, Colo.

The Galaxy (15-11-4) close with games next weekend against Real Salt Lake at the Home Depot Center, Oct. 21 at Western leader San Jose and Oct. 28 with a home date against Seattle. The Rapids (9-18-3) have more losses than every team in Major League Soccer except Toronto FC, but they present a familiar set of problems that must be solved.

“This is going to be as tough as any of those [final three games],” said left back Todd Dunivant, a Coloradan who will have “a pretty good crew” of friends and family at DSG Park. “Colorado is still fighting, and they have a lot to prove and [are in] a difficult part of their season, as well. It's not going to be any easier than the other games. I know, standings aside, but every game is difficult, and in Colorado, it's as tough as it gets.”

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The altitude is the biggest issue, of course, presenting the Rapids an advantage the Galaxy says is very real.

“It gets you. It definitely gets you,” midfielder Mike Magee said. “We've actually been doing well with it, but around the 20th, 25th minute, you start looking at the clock, thinking, 'Half's about to be over?' You've got to be there mentally, 'cause if you're not, you will run out of gas.”

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Head coach Bruce Arena combats it by flying into Denver as late as possible. The Galaxy traveled Saturday after training at the Home Depot Center. It works: LA is 3-0-1 in Colorado under Arena after winning just once in 13 previous trips, dating to 2003, under his four predecessors. The Rapids lead the all-time series in Denver, 16-13-4, with a 15-10-4 mark in regular-season games.

“You either got to get there five days early to get accustomed to it, or you got to get there right before the game so it doesn't hit you yet,” Magee said. “I think either way it affects you, but we do it best we can.”

The Galaxy needs a win to jump back into second place ahead of RSL, which Saturday beat Chivas USA. If they do so, LA, RSL and Seattle will be in a virtual dead-heat – each can get to 61 points – and avoiding fourth place, and a wild-card assignment, is the chief aim. Each has games remaining with the others.

“I guess it will be decided amongst ourselves,” Dunivant said. “That's how you want it to be.”