CARSON, Calif. – The stage is set for the LA Galaxy.
Just two home games separate the club from hosting MLS Cup 2011, and with an immaculate 12-0-5 home record, it seems the cup is well within reach.
While that may be the case, players aren’t looking beyond Thursday's second leg of their Western Conference Semifinal match against the New York Red Bulls (11 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, TSN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), not even for a quick glance at what the near future might hold in store.
Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee said the players are confident in their ability to focus on the task at hand instead of feeling as if an MLS Cup appearance was all but theirs.
“We felt that way last year as well and Dallas smashed us at home, so we’re not going to overlook anyone,” Magee said during a conference call on Wednesday. “We’re not looking forward to MLS Cup. We’re looking towards [Thursday] and New York. We believe if we do that, play one game at a time and don’t let our guards down, then this will be the year.”
In the previous two seasons, the Galaxy have done things well and put themselves in a position to hoist the cup, but it never happened.
Prior failures though have only fueled the club’s fire in 2011.
“This team, for the most part, has been together for three years. In ’09 we came up short, lost in penalties, and then last year letting our guard down and getting crushed at home by Dallas 3-0,” Magee said. “All that kind of plays into how badly we want this year’s cup.”
Regardless of how this year finishes out, the Galaxy have done quite well not just in 2011 but since Magee has arrived. The club won the Supporters’ Shield in each of the past two seasons, advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League group stage and have made a deep run in the postseason in 2009 and 2010.
And while Magee was also a participant in MLS Cup 2008 as a member of the Red Bulls, to him, there was always a stark contrast between the two clubs.
“Here in LA, things are amazing,” Magee said. “When I was in New York, things were a bit different than they way they are now. It was pretty hectic while I was there. There were ownership changes, six coaches in six years – it was a bit crazy. There was always complete roster [overhauls].”
Magee was just part of the puzzle that head coach Bruce Arena pieced together, adding stability and a workmanlike attitude to the LA Galaxy team.
“I get to LA and it’s more like a family. It’s real stable and Bruce Arena has done an incredible job putting all the pieces together and making the atmosphere better every day and stable,” Magee said. “I’ve heard Red Bull has done a lot to change that, but when I was there, it was black and white.”
Magee has settled in at left midfield and could play a large role in whether or not New York’s attack succeeds. Red Bulls right back Jan Gunnar Solli will return for the match and Magee will likely see quite a bit of the Norwegian defender.
“He’s a guy who is fit and he gets up and down,” Magee said. “Obviously, if you’re lazy and just standing up top, he’s going to get some good crosses in and they’re going to score a lot of goals off that.”
Defending Solli also means to force him into his defensive role instead of allowing him to make runs down the right flank.
“I’m going to try and attack as much as I can but Solli is a different player. He likes to come forward and join in on the attack a lot, which will put a lot more responsibility on me,” he said. "But to counter that, I’d like to hopefully get him back on his heels.”