CARSON, Calif. – Having led the league in points for most of 2011, the LA Galaxy and the MLS Cup Playoffs seemed to go together as much as cake and ice cream.
But in order for the Galaxy to indulge in some sweet postseason treats, they had to have them served up first.
They got their first helping on Friday night when they became the first team to secure a spot in the 2011 MLS postseason thanks to a 1-0 win over Colorado at Home Depot Center. And while the locker room did not feature any sort of playoff-clinching celebrations, it was a small but significant step for the Galaxy.
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“It’s good to have that out of the way,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “Every year the first goal at the top of the list is to make the playoffs. We can cross that one off.”
While it is the first and most obvious step toward winning the MLS Cup, reaching the playoffs was not the main goal for the club. Even before the Galaxy ever play a single minute in the postseason, they have other things on their minds during the regular season.
“I think that was a foregone conclusion at this point,” defender Todd Dunivant said of clinching the postseason berth. “We’re looking to the Supporters’ Shield. [Clinching a playoff spot] is not our focus. That wasn’t our main goal this year. That’s obviously something we wanted to do. I think everyone knew we were on our way anyway.”
Winning their second consecutive Supporters’ Shield and faring well in another competition they are in serves as motivation.
“That’s not causing us to jump through hoops and have parties but that’s part of it. To be MLS champs you have to be in the playoffs,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “It would be nice to win the Supporters’ Shield. That’s the objective for us, win the Supporters’ Shield and advance out of group play in the CONCACAF Champions League.”
The Galaxy moved seven points clear of Seattle in the race for the Shield. Seattle host Real Salt Lake Saturday while FC Dallas, third in the overall league table, visit New England. The Galaxy did their part and now can spend a somewhat relaxing weekend, watching games and perhaps taking another step or two closer to the coveted trophy.
“The beauty of playing on a Friday night and winning is now you get to sit back all weekend and watch the other teams beat each other up,” Donovan said. “We’ll be hoping for some favorable results and maybe we’re a little closer to the Supporters’ Shield on Sunday.”
Colorado was not necessarily in hot pursuit of the Galaxy for the Supporters’ Shield, but the Rapids are fighting with rivals Real Salt Lake for the fourth spot in the Western Conference, which would likely be good enough for the first wild-card spot.
Colorado, who beat the Galaxy in a late-season match at Home Depot Center a year ago, posed a tough challenge entering Friday.
“It was a big game for us because Colorado come here and they gave us a hard game,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “It was important that we were on the top of our game and for most of the game we were. We got a little bit sloppy with our passing but I think overall it was a good performance from us, a professional performance and an important three points.”
Donovan scored his team-high 12th goal of the season in the 36th minute to account for the only goal on Friday. The goal was the end product of a series of passes between the Galaxy that resulted in a wide-open Donovan easily finishing from the left side of the penalty area.
“There was a number of times where the guy on the far side of the field had a lot of space,” he said. “Between Paolo [Cardozo] and David and Chad [Barrett] and Sean [Franklin], they did a great job of combining and Sean did a great job to find me. Put yourself in good positions and tonight they found me and it worked out.”