CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have climbed all the way to second place in the Western Conference, vaulting past Seattle with Saturday's victory over Toronto FC. They know a worst-to-first run is impossible, no matter the math.
The priority is playoff seeding, now that they're officially qualified, and building momentum for their bid to repeat as MLS Cup champions, and that's going to be a severe challenge, given their schedule.
Next weekend, they're in Colorado's altitude, then they take on the West's other three powers – at home vs. Real Salt Lake, at San Jose and at home against Seattle – with what could be a critical CONCACAF Champions League trip to El Salvador sandwiched between the final two games.
HIGHLIGHTS: LA clinch playoff berth vs. TFC
“In May, this would have been an unlikely scenario, so it's been a terrific run probably of close to 20 games for our team,” head coach Bruce Arena, whose team was last in the West with a 3-8-2 record when June began, said after LA clinched the postseason berth. “The resurgence has been outstanding. It's a real character test on the group, and not many teams would have positioned themselves where we are right now. Having said that, I think we all understand there's a lot of soccer to be played this season.”
Playoff Race Update: Galaxy, RSL clinch postseason spots
The Galaxy (15-11-4) are ahead of RSL on the total-goals tiebreaker (by a 14-goal margin) and one point up on Seattle, who have a game in hand. One of the three clubs is certain to play in the Western wild-card game, and one will be seeded higher for a conference semifinal home-and-home.
“With the playoff format, you don't want to be in the play-in game,” midfielder Mike Magee said. “But I think it says a lot to see the form that we've been on in the last two months. I think we’ve only lost one game [in league play since the July 4 defeat to Philadelphia], and we’re still not top of the league, so I think it shows how poorly we played to start the season.”
Supporters' Shield leaders San Jose's magic number in the West is four points, but that’s in relation to Seattle. The Galaxy and RSL will be eliminated from the title chase with the Earthquakes' next victory – or their own failures to win every match. The Galaxy can live with that.
“I think the expectation is that we're going to make the playoffs, at a minimum,” captain Landon Donovan said. “Regardless of how we started, that's the expectation, so that's good. That's out of the way. We want to keep climbing as high as we can. Obviously, first place is out of the question, but if we can keep this going and [finish] second, that would be a huge boost.”