When the going gets tough, the tough get going ... and champions stick together.
Make no mistake, that is what needs to happen for the Los Angeles Galaxy, more than scoring goals or getting a much-needed road victory. At this point, X's and O's, tactics and player selection all take a back seat to team chemistry. Oh, the voices are creeping up among MLS insiders, but that's more a compliment than a slight toward the team's difficult stretch.
Can you name another team in the league with more expectations than the Galaxy? Can you name another team that has publicly stated that "entertaining and winning soccer" is the only way the club will play?
In every one of the 10 MLS seasons, the Galaxy set their only goal as winning MLS Cup. It started in 1996 and hasn't changed through contraction, expansion, soccer specific stadiums, and Clasicos.
Who doesn't want to win on this Galaxy team? Every player, coach, staff member, and fan wants to win; it's that single-mindedness that propelled the club to four MLS Cup finals and one championship in the previous nine MLS campaigns. And that's why sticking together has got to be the priority.
There is too much championship experience on this team to simply let it all slide downhill into playoff oblivion. Cobi Jones, Kevin Hartman, Pete Vagenas Chris Albright, and Tyrone Marshall were vital parts of the 2002 MLS Cup winning team. I doubt they've lost the will or knowledge it takes to win.
Chris Albright (D.C. United) and Todd Dunivant (San Jose Earthquakes) brought titles with them to the Galaxy locker room. And Landon Donovan has a MLS Cup MVP trophy somewhere in his pad; I'm sure he could show you if you don't see it on MTV's "Cribs".
Heck, even Paulo Nagamura had the best seat in the house for Arsenal's 49-match unbeaten run and EPL title season from 2003-04; I'm sure Paulo retained some semblance of what it takes to excel and win, as Aresene Wenger and Thierry Henry are good like that.
That's not to mention Jovan Kirovski, who helped capture the UEFA Champions' League trophy, one of the world's top club tournaments, with Borussia Dortmund in 1997.
This team has all the pieces to be the best team in the league. And although Galaxy fans expect wire-to-wire results in which their club are class of the league from the opening to the final weekend, it's the latter that matters most.
With nine matches remaining in the regular season and potentially four more in the playoffs, the Galaxy have more than enough time in the remaining possible 13 matches to get their stride right and be the last team standing. Staying together is the only way any championship team realizes its ultimate goal.
I'm planning on eating lots of pepperoni pizza in Dallas in November; I hear it goes great with champagne. I know I am not the only one.
Allen Hopkins is the L.A. Galaxy's color commentator on FSN West and FSN West2, in addition to his commentator duties on Fox Soccer Channel. He can be reach via e-mail at email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's, and not necessarily those of the Los Angeles Galaxy or Major League Soccer.