CARSON, Calif. – It’s make or break time for the LA Galaxy, who head into the toughest stretch of their season – eight games in 30 days – knowing that how they fare likely will determine their fate this year.
The Galaxy sit fourth in the Western Conference, seven points behind Seattle (the only club in the league with a better points-per-game average), and will make up their games in hand on the teams they trail – one against Seattle, three against Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas – as they fight for points nearly every four days.
"It’s going to define our season, there’s no question," Landon Donovan said. "How we do in that stretch will determine where we end up, there’s no question about it. And for us, I think we’re excited for it."
It starts Saturday night in Columbus (7:30 pm ET; MLS Live) and includes games at Colorado, Montreal and San Jose, the year’s final SuperClasico against Chivas USA, a rescheduled home match (from March) with D.C. United and vital Western Conference home games against Vancouver and Colorado.
LA (9-4-7) play four games over the next 12 days – following the Crew clash with a date Wednesday in suburban Denver, at home Aug. 23 against the Whitecaps and the the D.C. game four days later. Their longest stretch without a game is four days.
"I wouldn’t call it brutal," said head coach Bruce Arena, who criticized MLS’ schedule earlier this season. "Things could be worse. ... It’s not that bad. We’ll be all right. I’m not complaining about it."
Leave that to midfielder Marcelo Sarvas.
“You have to give every team the same conditions, you know,” he said. “In the beginning [of the year] we don’t have that much games, now a lot of games in the middle of the season to the end. ... We have to play. For sure, it’s going to be a challenge, but we have to do it."
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They’re starting the stretch with their longest trip of the year – a full week away from home. They’ll stick around Columbus for a few days after Saturday’s game, then head to Denver just before facing Colorado to better deal with the altitude.
Arena had to be talked out of returning to Southern California between the games.
"Originally, my thought was we’d come home and then go to Colorado," Arena said. "But the players convinced me that it would be better just staying on the road."
The Galaxy, who have been dominant in four of their last five league games and are 5-1-2 since MLS’ World Cup break, hope a little team bonding will help them through this thorny stretch and into a final run toward the playoffs.
"It’s been a little while since we’ve been gone, and we wanted to make sure we could stay away for the whole week so that we could keep the team together and have some time away," Donovan said. "When you’re home for a long time, guys get out of training and they go home and they get away from it, and you lose a little bit of that team camaraderie. You’re in every day, but it’s not the same.
"When you’re on the road, guys bond more. You play games, go out to dinner, watch TV together, watch movies, do different stuff. So it’s good for bonding. Before the last stretch of the season, it’s good to have everyone together and just in a little more of an intimate setting."