CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy know they must put last weekend's disaster in Seattle behind them heading into this weekend's critical SuperClasico showdown with Chivas USA, but that's more complicated than it sounds.
The Galaxy (10-11-4) need a strong performance and a positive result Sunday night at Home Depot Center (11 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) in order to get past the 4-0 loss to the Sounders.
“It's always important to bounce back when you get a bad defeat,” forward Robbie Keane said following LA's training session Friday. “It's important that we bounce back, and it's always good to bounce back against another rival. I know the lads are looking forward to getting back on the field and eradicate the mistakes and the way that we played [in Seattle].”
It was the team's worst performance since returning in mid-June from Major League Soccer's mini-break, and it has been on Galaxy minds as they prepare for the rubber match, this one a road game, in the three-game series with their cross-stadium rival.
Answering that showing is “what we're shooting for,” according to Todd Dunivant.
“Defensively, we want to come back,” the veteran defender said. “That's the biggest thing. We gave up four goals, and that's never good, and it's happened too much this year.
“[We're working toward] getting on the same page again, getting comfortable as a defense, as a group. We've had a lot of different guys come in and out, but we still have to have to same principles as a defense. Those are things we're going to hammer down this week.”
Chivas USA (7-8-5) are the Galaxy's chief pursuer in the race for the Western Conference's final playoff berth, sitting seven points behind but with four games in hand. A victory shoves them into the race; a loss extends the chasm to the Galaxy with time winding down.
“We take a lot of pride in this rivalry,” captain Landon Donovan said in a SuperClasico news conference on Friday afternoon, “but I think more importantly, probably for both teams at this point, is these could end up the last two teams that fight for a playoff spot. That's where our focus is.”
Said Keane: “It's important we [build upon] that gap. ... Our goal is certainly to get into the playoffs – it would be a tragedy if we didn't do that. I think if we get a couple results and sort of make a stand and we know we're in the playoffs, who knows what can happen, you know? We could go on a good run. We want to finish as high as possible, and that starts Sunday against Chivas.”
A good showing will restore confidence. Another stinker will raise doubts.
“The way I look at things is, since the break, we've been very, very good,” assistant coach Curt Onalfo said. “And then we had a little bump in the road up in Seattle.
“And did that have something to do with maybe losing a little bit of confidence [after last week's 5-1 loss] against Real Madrid? Probably. But in this business you can't be looking back, you need to always be looking forward, and that's what we're doing.”