CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy have plenty of unfinished business at hand Sunday when they take on San Jose, and it's not all about that battle for playoff positioning.
Twice this season the Galaxy (15-12-5) have opened two-goal leads on the Earthquakes, and both times they lost. That's hardly the exception: San Jose (19-6-7) has rallied from behind for five wins and five ties this year and it has picked up 19 of its 64 points after the 82nd minute.
“I don't even know if we want a two-goal lead against this team,” mused Mike Magee, who could play up top in place of injured captain Landon Donovan. “We'll just take one. We'll take a 1-0 win, would be lovely.”
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The fourth-place Galaxy likely need a victory to stay within striking distance of Real Salt Lake and Seattle as they look to avoid the Western Conference's Knockout Round game, and they'll have to do so without some key personnel. Donovan says in one breath he's “unlikely” and in the next that he's aiming to be back for the playoffs. A.J. DeLaGarza's absence with a knee injury hurts the backline.
And David Beckham didn't practice Friday and wasn't present for the portion of Saturday's session open to the media, forced out, head coach Bruce Arena said, by “nothing in particular. He's dealing with 30 years of football.”
Arena is trying to work a delicate balance between pushing for the second or third spot in the West and getting his team ready for the playoffs, and those aims don't necessarily mesh. Health might trump points.
“I think we have a couple weeks to get our team ready for the playoffs,” he said. “The comforting part is we're qualified for the playoffs and just trying to get ourselves as healthy as possible.”
There is added motivation, thanks to the losses back in May and June. The Galaxy took a 2-0 lead into the final 15 minutes May 23 at the Home Depot Center, but the Quakes rallied for a 3-2 win, with former LA forward Alan Gordon's header the difference deep into stoppage. San Jose rallied from a 3-1 deficit five-and-a-half weeks later for a 4-3 victory.
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“Those were tough ones,” Magee said. “We know we're a different team now, but the fashion we lost both those games -- being up two goals -- is something that doesn't sit easy.”
LA left back Todd Dunivant called the defeats “inexcusable” and says this time LA wants to get the advantage and then “shut it down and make sure that defensively we keep everything in front of us and make it difficult on them on the day.”
Arena isn't thinking about the past.
“I was not happy in the short term with those games, but now I've put it past me,” he said, then added: “I'm looking for greater things. I've had a grandchild born, we're in the middle of a heated Presidential election, we've lost a difficult Ryder Cup. ... Really, I don't give two [expletive] about the last time we played San Jose.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.