CARSON, Calif. – The playoffs appeared a most unlikely dream for the reigning MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy back at the end of May.
There’s been a pretty dramatic turnaround since then, to the point that the Galaxy are now on the verge of clinching their fourth straight postseason berth.
A victory Saturday night over Toronto FC at the Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET; TSN/RDS2 in Canada; MLS Live in the US) ensures what is certainly inevitable, but it's not really on LA's radar – at least not until reporters pointed it out at Friday morning's training session.
“It hasn't been talked about, actually,” left back Todd Dunivant said at training on Friday. “You guys just told me for the first time. So we didn't know that. I think at this point, obviously we're jockeying for position in the playoffs – not that it's a foregone conclusion that we've made it – but I think our goal now is to finish in the top three [in the Western Conference, to avoid the wild-card round], and that's really what we're focused on. That's very important going in [to the playoffs].”
The Galaxy (14-11-4) were 3-8-2, sat last in the West, and had lost six of seven games back in June when MLS took its mini international break. That miserable stretch included a tepid loss to a lower-division side in the US Open Cup, and precious few signs that good times lie ahead.
Since then, they are 11-3-2 in MLS play, the best mark in the league, just ahead of Chicago's 10-4-2, have climbed to third in the conference ahead of Real Salt Lake on total goals, and look like a prime contender come November.
“I think now it's safe to assume that we're most likely going to be in the playoffs,” captain Landon Donovan said. “But there's a lot going on with seeding, with our conference and the East that could matter in the end, so we've got to keep winning games.
“I think our attitude is good, I think we're confident, and we've just got to go on the field and perform. It's really as simple as that. If we do the things right, then more often than not we're going to win games.”
Supporters' Shield leaders San Jose (17-6-6) already have a postseason berth, and second-place Seattle (13-6-9) and RSL (14-11-4) also can clinch Saturday, leaving one Western spot open.
That said, getting to the playoffs is just a starting point.
“[Our play since mid-June has] been great, but that revival and three dollars gets you a cup of coffee,” Donovan said. “It doesn't mean anything if we don't put it to good use these last few [regular-season] games and into the playoffs.
"But we've positioned ourselves now where we have a realistic chance to make some headway and to do some damage in the playoffs, whereas before we had no chance. We're proud of [this run], but we still got a long way to go.”