FC Dallas and the LA Galaxy both had reasons to be unsatisfied with their results over the weekend. But both teams are quickly pivoting to their crucial clash at FCD's Toyota Stadium on Saturday, a match that could do much to decide who wins the 2016 Supporters' Shield as well as the MLS Western Conference (9 pm ET; MLS LIVE).
“The LA game is a huge one for us,” said Dallas defender Matt Hedges after his team's 0-0 draw at Real Salt Lake. “They're obviously right behind us in the standings and they’re one of the best teams in the league. So it’s good that we have this game at home and we need to get three points out of it.”
FCD have commanded the league's top spot for weeks, and still enjoy a five-point cushion on their nearest pursuers in both the Shield and Conference standings. But they're winless in their last three games, and are conscious that further stumbles could open the door for LA or several other teams to sneak past them in the season's final weeks.
LA, Colorado, Toronto FC, the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC all sit on 48 points, though the Rapids and TFC are best-positioned for a late surge by virtue of their games in hand (two for Colorado and one for Toronto). The Galaxy, meanwhile, have been the best late-season team in MLS since 2011.
“The game against LA is huge for us and obviously a big game for them,” said FCD goalkeeper Chris Seitz on Saturday. “We’ve got three games left this year so we’ve got to take advantage of them. We’re were we want to be, but at the same time there are people that can catch us and want what we have. So we have to keep pressing forward.”
LA and Dallas actually meet twice in the campaign's final month, with the Galaxy hosting their Texan counterparts at StubHub Center on the final day of the regular season. LA also have the added motivation of seeking revenge for last month's stunning home loss to FCD in the US Open Cup semifinals, a wild extra-time affair that saw the visitors net two last-gasp goals on their way to their first trophy in 19 years.
“We've had these two games against Dallas at the end of the season kind of in our minds, and next week is the first one, so we take it game by game,” said LA midfielder Jeff Larentowicz after Sunday's home loss to Seattle. “No team sits around thinking about a slide. We play the first-place team in the West next weekend and deal with them.
“Absolutely,” he added when asked whether the Galaxy still see the Shield as a possibility. “I mean Colorado, we can't do anything about them, but two games against Dallas, last one at home – maybe that one shapes up to be a special one.”
Though Dallas saw a lengthy home unbeaten streak skid to a halt with a 1-0 loss to the Rapids on Sept. 10, they remain one of MLS' most dominant teams in their own house with a 10-1-4 mark in league play. This week they must deal with a home CONCACAF Champions League game vs. Guatemala's CD Suchitepequez on Wednesday which is likely to determine the winner of CCL Group H.