CARSON, Calif - Reinforcements are arriving in Los Angeles just in time for Saturday night's game between the Galaxy and Real Salt Lake. With the most recent round of World Cup qualifying matches concluded on Wednesday night, both teams will get key pieces back to their starting lineups for the match at The Home Depot Center.
Real will see defensive anchor Eddie Pope return to their club. However, Pope suffered an apparent injury in Wednesday night's U.S. 3-0 victory against Panama, and his availability might be in question.
The Galaxy will welcome back Landon Donovan, who has been on a tear with the U.S. Having scored three goals and added an assist in leading the national team to a pair of victories, the Galaxy are hoping he can continue that streak wearing Green and Gold instead of Red, White and Blue.
The game isn't just a welcome home party, though. For the Galaxy, it marks a launching pad for an upcoming road swing. With just about one-third of the season complete, the term "must-win game" seems premature, but for the Galaxy, it's getting close.
"It's difficult to call a game a must-win at this point in the season," said goalkeeper Kevin Hartman. "At the same time it would go a long way in solidifying our belief in ourselves."
Los Angeles has a grueling summer schedule that sees them on the road most of the time, with just three home games out of the next 13 on the calendar until the beginning of September. With FC Dallas playing well and now possessing the best record in MLS, while putting space between themselves and the Galaxy in the standings, the three points available on Saturday are that much more important.
Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall, who also returns to action after a one-game absence due to international duty with Jamaica, knows how important this game is.
"We need to win games at home. Dallas keeps on winning so they're putting a little more pressure on us," he said. "RSL put a bad taste in our mouths last time we went up there. It's a little bit of payback."
On the Galaxy's first visit to Salt Lake City, the last time the teams met, the Galaxy held a 1-0 lead at the half only to lose 2-1, just their second loss of the campaign and first since the season opener. Each team has defeated the other once this season, and the Galaxy are certainly looking to protect their home on Saturday.
According to Galaxy boss Steve Sampson, winning at home is the key to success for any team in MLS.
"I think at home, every game is a must-win game," he said. "That doesn't change regardless of the position we're in."
Greg Daurio is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.