It would be best for the rest of Major League Soccer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic proclaimed, if LA did not make it. If they do, watch out.
“We have that team that can make it in the playoffs,” the Swedish star said following Thursday's training session at StubHub Center. “There's not a team out there that wants to play us when we play the game we know how to play and we can play. I see us as a threat for everybody.”
First things first, and the priority is Saturday showdown with visiting Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10 pm ET | TSN - Full TV & Streaming info), the latest in a series of “must-win” games. Another victory would give LA (11-11-8) a fighting chance as they look to overtake Seattle (44 points), Real Salt Lake (45) or Portland Timbers (47).
Defeat might kill their chances, realistically if not mathematically, while giving the Whitecaps (11-11-7) a boost in their playoff push.
The Galaxy's impressive performance in the 3-0 win over the Sounders has breathed life into a side that hadn't won since the end of June and didn't look particularly deserving of a postseason berth. LA used exceptional organization to play its best defensive game in months and looked, for the first time since its nine-game unbeaten run, like it could beat someone.
Like it could beat anyone.
“If you would have asked me before the Seattle game, do we deserve to go to the playoffs, I would have said no,” said captain Ashley Cole. “But after that performance, I would have to say yes, because I think the way the team is playing, it's totally different to the other games. I think it's probably the best game we've played in terms of possession, forward movement, defending as a team. ... If this team played like we did on Sunday for the last 20 games, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in now.”
Dominic Kinnear has altered tactics since taking over on an interim basis from Sigi Schmid 2 1/2 weeks ago, and the 4-4-2 formation he used against Seattle provided structure that enabled to Galaxy to keep things tight at the back while creating chances up front. The victory, and more so the quality of play, has provided ample confidence within the squad.
“I think the situation is more clear and the details [are] more precise and you can see the game, the way we are performing and the way we did it,” said Ibrahimovic, whose 18th goal of the season, a 9th-minute penalty kick, started LA on its victory. “We didn't only win. ... We were dominant, and we had a stability the whole game.
“We looked stronger. You could see it's a team of quality, a team that is a threat for everybody, and if we have a day like that, I don't believe many teams want to play against is. So I think they go out there and they wish only we don't make it to the playoffs.”
He was asked if the Galaxy deserve a playoff spot.
“Yes,” he replied. “I don't see any other teams better than us.”
The Galaxy have four games left — at Sporting Kansas City (Oct. 6), at Minnesota United (Oct. 21) and at home against the Houston Dynamo (Oct. 28) — and need to get past the Sounders, RSL or Portland. Seattle (13-11-5) has a game in hand on LA and has the easier schedule, with five games against teams that will not advance to the playoffs.
Portland (13-9-8) and RSL (13-11-6) are further ahead but perhaps more in reach. Both have four difficult games to play, two of them against each other.
“I'll say what I said last week: If we don't win the game on Saturday, it becomes a huge task,” Kinnear said when asked about watching the scoreboard. “The one thing we will know before we step on the field is Salt Lake will already have played in Seattle, so that makes things a little more clear, but not really, because we need to win.”