Despite the task facing the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, the mood around the club's locker room all week has been one of confidence. Although they came out of the first leg of their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Colorado Rapids with a one-goal deficit, the veteran leadership on the club is all too aware there is no such thing as a safe lead in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Just ask Cobi Jones, or Kevin Hartman, or any of the players that were on the field last October, when the San Jose Earthquakes bounced them out of the playoffs after trailing by four goals on aggregate with little more than 45 minutes left -- only to score five goals, including an extra-time "golden goal" to clinch the series.
It's that heartbreaking experience of last year that has this year's Galaxy squad so confident in their ability to come back. The veterans on this team are making sure that their experience carries the team through the rest of this season.
Jones was one of the players on the field last year when the Galaxy were on the losing end of a dramatic comeback by the Earthquakes. He, along with others, knows that this is no time to get desperate.
"The leadership qualities need to come out," Jones said. "Not just from myself, but from other players who have been around awhile."
Jovan Kirovski might be new to MLS, but he isn't new to pressure situations. His time spent overseas in Europe -- most specifically in UEFA Champions League play -- has carried over to this year's Galaxy squad and some of the younger guys on the team.
"I have been around in many different places," Kirovski said. "With all the young guys, I try and help them out. I look forward to helping these guys." "Those guys" are rookie strikers Joseph Ngwenya and Alan Gordon, who could well figure on Saturday night, especially if the Galaxy need a goal late in the game and are throwing everything forward. Gordon, a rookie this year, made his first two starts of his young career in the last two weeks of the season, when Carlos Ruiz was out with an injury. He is one player that is relishing the time he's had with some of the older guys on the team.
"I learn something every time I step out on the field. It's the best thing that's happened to me and my game," Gordon said. "Just having the veterans telling me little things has helped me tremendously." The veterans also expect their experience will be counted upon in the case of extra time. While the coaches might be preparing for the possibility, the Galaxy players don't want to hear about it.
"We're a fit team. If it does go to overtime I think we'll be fine," Albright said. "(But) hopefully we can make a statement in the first 45 minutes."
Hartman is another player who doesn't want to see an additional 30 minutes played -- unlike last year, where Rodrigo Faria's goal six minutes into the first extra session ended the Galaxy's dreams, this year the entire extra session must be played.
"We're not going to pace ourselves for 120 minutes," Hartman said. "If we have the opportunity to put two or three away in the first 90, that's what we're going to do."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.