For Galaxy forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, the key is doing whatever possible to not let high stakes factor in too much, even with the knowledge that a loss could undo a season's worth of work.
Going into Sunday, the Galaxy are clinging onto the Western Conference's final Audi MLS Cup Playoffs spot, two points clear of Real Salt Lake. Win and in they're in, but lose and they could be eliminated altogether.
"Inside the pitch, it's a soccer game, 11 against 11, a good team against another good team, both fighting for a spot in playoffs," Hernandez said on his Friday video call. "But that's the thing, whoever manages everything in a better way, in a more normal way, then you can get motivated, you can be as efficient as you can, is the team who's going to win. Sometimes, over-emotions, over-excitement, then you have the outcome that is completely opposite than what you were expecting. We're working very good tactically, emotionally, in the group with our chemistry and everything to be as ready as we can.
"Hopefully we can get the three points and qualify directly without depending on other results."
The Galaxy still control their own destiny, but a nine-game winless streak damaged their postseason outlook. They've since rebounded, and head coach Greg Vanney feels as though his group can compete with anyone should they qualify.
"For me, I think we started off very strong at the beginning of the year, which we probably got some results in some games that we call character wins where we maybe could have had different results, but we did great," Vanney said. "Then there were some games down the stretch where we went into those nine games where I felt like probably we could have gotten more out of those games and we didn't.
"So, somewhere we're probably in the balance of where we should be," he continued. "With that being said, we're in position to control our destiny at home in the last game of the season. Based off our start I'd like to say we'd be more secure and into the playoffs because we did get off to such a good start this year, but in MLS things tend to always balance out over time in some ways. ...If we can do our job on the weekend then we're playing a little bit with house money in the playoffs to really try to go for it because it's a young group that has some capacity to get results against anybody."
All told, it's a matchup that promises to provide plenty of drama. The Loons are currently fifth in the West on 48 points from 33 matches, but given the logjam on the table, a lot could change depending on the result.
Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath said he's looking forward to the spectacle, knowing they can't climb any higher than fifth place.
"I think it was Greg who said, after we played them here, I remember him saying it’s like we’ve all been at playoff mode the last four or five weeks because there’s so much at stake in every single game," Heath said. "And I said, 'Vanney, it’ll probably go down to the last game of the season' and it did. I can’t remember a year where, in both conferences, there’s been maybe nine, 10 teams who are not sure of either making the playoffs or dropping out. So it's going to be exciting stuff, Decision Day. Let’s hope we can go in there and give a performance of what’s going to a special day.”
The Loons are also carrying momentum from last weekend's 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City, then the West's No. 1 team. They've emerged victorious from three of their past five games, ending a skid of their own.
The key to keep progressing? That's simple, goalkeeper Tyler Miller said.
"Discipline and fight and resolve and sticking to what we’re good at," Miller said. "When we play as individuals, that’s when we are susceptible – when you try to do too much, that’s when things can kind of go away. But, if we play as a unit, we’re one of the hardest teams to beat.”