CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy reached the midpoint of their season with a thud, watching their two-month unbeaten streak come to an end in Kansas City, then following that with an embarrassing seven-goal friendly loss – the largest such margin in club annals – to Manchester United.
Now they've got their biggest showdown yet this season: at runaway Western Conference leader Seattle. What better time to make a statement? Or not.
"There are no statement games, in my opinion," Landon Donovan said ahead of Monday night's clash at CenturyLink Field (10 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, TSN2 in Canada, match preview), the first of three meetings this season between the teams. "I think we just want to rack points up on the board.
"The Western Conference is very tight, and some of the teams near the bottom are actually making a push to make it even tighter. We have to get points along the way. We're halfway through now, so at this point of the season, we have to get points."
LA (7-4-6) sit sixth, one of six teams within six points of one another, and the Galaxy are 11 points behind Seattle (12-4-2), who are 10-2-2 since the end of the March, have won their last six home games, are playing on familiar artificial turf hated by every other club and expect another huge crowd in their favor.
"They have the formula that breeds success in our league," Donovan said. "They have a group of guys who have been around for a long time, they have a solid goalkeeper, good defenders, and they have a number of attacking players who make plays.
Robbie Keane says it "probably" is the biggest match of the LA schedule.
"Especially at their place, always a tough place to go," the Galaxy captain said. "They've been good – very good, very consistent. But we haven't been doing too bad ourselves. We lost last weekend at Kansas City, but it was our first loss in [nine] games, so we're still going in with a lot of confidence. …
"As long as we don't think about the Manchester United game, because as far as I'm concerned, it's gone. It's no reflection of how we've been. As soon as the players forget about that, I think the better."
- Get more LA Galaxy news at LAGalaxy.com
The Galaxy have games in hand on everyone else in the West – as many as four, but just one on Seattle – and are fifth in MLS in points per game, just a fraction behind Real Salt Lake, the No. 2 team in the conference.
LA are, theoretically at least, part of the regular-season title chase, and should they get within striking range, they will have a chance to control their own fate when they close the season in October with a home-and-home series against Seattle.
"We want to win the Supporters' Shield," Keane said. "I know we're far behind at the moment, but if we win on Monday, it's eight points [behind the Sounders] and we have a game in hand. All of a sudden, it's fairly close again. So it's important that we get something out of the game."