While two games in one week certainly isn't anything new in MLS, it's not often that teams face each other twice in one week, let alone in the same stadium. But that's exactly what the Los Angeles Galaxy are doing this week when they travel to San Jose.
On Wednesday night, the Galaxy face off against the Earthquakes in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Then on Saturday, the two teams will face off again in league play in a contest that now features the first and second place teams in the West. If the Galaxy can get two wins they will find themselves in the Open Cup semis and only three points behind the Quakes for the top spot.
First up is Wednesday night's Open Cup match. In the past some teams in MLS have taken the tournament lightly, choosing to rest several of their star players until the trophy is in sight. That won't be the case with the Galaxy on Wednesday.
"The game on Wednesday is all or nothing," said Galaxy coach Steve Sampson. "There are no ties in this match. We're playing to win it."
For Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas and the rest of his teammates the trophy is already within reach. For a franchise that has been consistently one at the top of the league, the Galaxy has only won the Open Cup once. It's a record not lost on the team.
"This team has only won one. I'm tired of hearing how good our other teams were," said Vagenas after Tuesday's training session. "It's time for this team to make a statement and add some trophies to the case."
With all the attention being put on Wednesday night's game one had to wonder what will be left in the tank for the weekend. Sampson has already said that to win at all costs on Wednesday is the strategy, and if players are too fatigued to go again on Saturday that he's going to have to plug holes with other players. But that's a problem he'll worry about after Wednesday night.
Veteran Galaxy defender Chris Albright insists that the team is treating both games equally, however.
"They're both a different level of importance. They're both big games and we're going to approach them the same," said Albright.
When asked about the difficulty of trying to turn things around and play again in such a short period of time, Albright had a simple answer.
"It'll be as hard as it is for San Jose," he said. "They're not on the road, but they'll have the same type of turnaround, so it'll be an even playing field."
With so much riding on both games it's hard to imagine that players won't find that second wind sometime between the two games. Two wins in a matter of four days is a lofty goal, but the Galaxy have renewed confidence following last weeks win against D.C. United.
Landon Donovan, who was with the MLS Select team that took on Real Madrid on Tuesday, is not eligible to play in the Open Cup match because of the league rule that limits players from playing in two games in less than 36 hours, but he should have a presence on the field on Saturday. Whatever the case, the Green and Gold are prepared for the challenge.
"It's not a case where coaches are going to try and rest players," said Vagenas. "I can assure you we're going in to win Wednesday night. Then after that, rally the troops and get a win Saturday night as well."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.