CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have fashioned an eight-game unbeaten streak and vaulted into a third-place tie in the West – with at least two games in hand over all but one conference rival – have scored impressive victories in three of their last four games and are coming off their most comprehensive performance of the season.
How close are they to the team they want to be?
They might find out Saturday evening, when they hit the midpoint in their league schedule against reigning MLS Cup champions and Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City (6 pm ET; ESPN2) in what could be a most telling road encounter.
The Galaxy (7-3-6) finally found their attack in Wednesday night’s 5-1 romp over skidding New England, and their defensive performance – even without star center back Omar Gonzalez, still dealing with an ankle injury from the World Cup – has been sublime in victories over San Jose, Real Salt Lake and the Revolution.
They’ve been playing some extraordinary soccer all season, but the results are starting to fall their way.
"We’re getting there. We’re not quite there yet," Landon Donovan said after the midweek win. "We still have, in my opinion, the best defender in the league coming back, so we haven’t played with him for a long time now. That’s a big plus.
"All of our defenders have been excellent this year. From a defensive standpoint, I think we’ve been as good as any team in the league. When we’re moving well and we’re fluid and attacking well, that makes us very hard to beat. So if we get those pieces together and connected, then we’re going to be hard to beat."
LA’s unbeaten streak is the club’s longest since 2011, when they went nearly three full months – 14 games – without a loss en route to a Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup double, but only RSL among their opponents have a winning record. Sporting (9-5-5), who also are seeking their third win in eight days, are a very different challenge.
"In my opinion, they’re the best team in the East and one of the best teams in the league," Donovan said. "They’re tough to play anywhere. They’re especially tough to play at home. ... They work hard, they’re well coached, they are athletic, they have playmakers all over the field. Defensively they’re very good, with [Matt] Besler back now [from the World Cup], and Dom Dwyer’s been excellent. They have all the makings of a real team."
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So do the Galaxy, who on Wednesday had their "most convincing" showing this year, according to Robbie Keane.
"I don’t think we’ve been playing great, to be honest with you," he said. "I think we’ve just been scraping by, but [this] was certainly our most convincing performance for a long time."
Head coach Bruce Arena says to be patient.
"We’re getting better. We’re not where we want to be," he said. "It will take another month or so. [We must] get better in all areas, not anything specific. Just continue to get better in all areas on the field in everything we do."
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.