CARSON, Calif – When the LA Galaxy travel to Frisco, Texas on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLS LIVE), they have the power to change their fate. But just getting everyone healthy might be the bigger challenge.
They’ll take on FC Dallas for the first of two games remaining against the MLS leaders, whom they currently trail by five points in the standings. That means the Galaxy have an opportunity to set up a run at the MLS Supporters’ Shield in October. But the end-of-season trophy isn’t a focal point for head coach Bruce Arena.
“We’re just looking at the game, going in and trying to win it,” said Arena after practice Thursday. “Whatever other things happen, they happen.”
The one-game-at-a-time approach makes sense, considering LA’s last outing, a 4-2 loss Sunday to the Seattle Sounders at home that brought to mind the 5-2 home loss to the Portland Timbers that happened in mid-October last year.
That loss to Portland hit LA like the crashing of a wave. The team slipped in playoff positioning to the Knockout Round, then crashed out of the playoffs in a one-and-done loss to the Sounders. The similarities weren’t lost on captain Robbie Keane.
“Straight away after the game [Sunday], that’s what I said to the players,” Keane said. “This has Portland written on it all over again. Same time, similar result, same way we played in terms of battling through the first 30 minutes – could have been two up.
“Everything that happened in [Sunday's] game was like deja vu,'' he continued. "After the game I mentioned in the meeting, saying we can’t let this happen. It’s very important that we can focus and forget about as much as we can about the Seattle game and fully focus on Dallas, because there’s no reason we can’t go in and get three points.”
Another factor for the Galaxy: continuing squad rotation. It’s been a struggle to get the same starting 11 onto the pitch from one week to the next. Despite players like Sebastian Lletget and Alan Gordon stepping up to fill absences, there’s no denying the difficulty of playing without the Designated Players who have been in and out of the lineup since the last international break.
“We’re just getting some players back,” said Arena. “[Steven] Gerrard’s just coming back, Keane’s now getting to a point where he looks like he’s going to be fit, [Giovani] dos Santos has missed a game, now he’s getting back. Trying to get [Landon] Donovan close to match fitness, hopefully [Gyasi] Zardes will get back by the end of the month.
“You try to get your best players onto the field. It’s been a difficult year for that, but hopefully we’re able to both qualify for the playoffs and have a healthy team as we enter the playoffs.”
Not only are the Galaxy dealing with getting those players fit, but Arena confirmed after practice that although AJ DeLaGarza has been making the 18-man roster he’s been dealing with injuries that have kept him out of the starting XI. Couple the injuries issue with the loss of some veteran leadership via the departure of Nigel de Jong, and you have a recipe for the lack of consistency seen in some of the younger Galaxy defenders.
“I think we need to forget about the Supporters’ Shield for now,” Gerrard said after practice. “Just focus on getting the performance right, individually, and collectively. Hopefully then the results will come.
“In my experience in football, it’s not to get too far ahead of yourselves and worry about what’s going to happen in three games' time. Let’s just try to get maximum points against Dallas.”
When it comes to his own fitness, Gerrard was all about contributing right away.
“I’ve had a difficult month,” said Gerrard. “With the hamstring injury, I’ve missed a lot of games. But I’ve worked me socks off to get myself in as best condition as I can. Now I need minutes; now I need to get out there. I need to try and get as many minutes as I can so I can try to find match fitness as soon as possible.”