CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy already know their playoff fate as they prepare to host FC Dallas on Sunday (4 pm ET, FS1 in US, MLS LIVE in Canada).
But they'll still play a central role in the Decision Day drama, even if head coach Bruce Arena isn't too interested in subplots.
Last weekend’s 1-0 win in Houston secured the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference for Arena's squad, and thus LA will open their 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs run with a Knockout Round match on either Wednesday or Thursday. So might it make sense to prioritize that game over Sunday?
“We’re going to try to win the game,” said Arena after practice Friday. “That’s what our strategy is.”
A win to close out the season could certainly be a boost to morale. And a Galaxy win would deny Dallas the Supporters' Shield should Colorado beat Houston at home. But with Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard working their way back from injuries, FCD might see an unconventional LA lineup at StubHub Center.
“It’s nice to know we’re secure in the third spot,” said Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe. “[We can] give some guys some minutes and rest some other guys for the playoffs coming up.
“[We] get a little revenge on Dallas as well. They came in the Open Cup and beat us at the end, we went out there and lost a tough one 1-0, so I think for this third matchup it’d be nice to get a win here at home.”
Arena, however, maintains that revenge against FCD or the opportunity to play spoiler doesn't matter all that much to him.
“I could care less about any of that stuff,” said the veteran boss. “We’re just trying to win the game.”
Players and coach alike agree that Sunday's situation isn’t an invitation to take their foot off the gas. In a week of unseasonably warm temperatures in Los Angeles County, dedication to the job provides the primary motivation.
“Approach doesn’t change at all,” said Rowe. “We’re all professionals, we’re all very competitive, and we all want to win.
“It doesn’t matter who you put on the field, it doesn’t matter if it’s a friendly, it doesn’t matter if it’s a meaningless game, we’re fighting for our jobs every day. We have pride and we’re going to go out there and we’re going to push hard and we want to win.”
It’s been a career year for Rowe, having won the starting goalkeeper job for the first time in his five MLS years. He currently ranks fourth among MLS goalkeepers in total saves, and is tied for third in clean sheets with eight. Still, his top priority on Sunday is closing out the regular season with a win.
“If they score four goals and we still win, it is what it is, at the end of the day we get the points,” he said. “Of course it’s always icing on the top to be able to get a shutout, to be able defensively as a unit do that. But, I think getting a win for us is up there.”