CARSON, Calif. — From the season’s start in March to July 9, the Galaxy lost exactly two games. In a four-day stretch last week, they doubled that amount.
A US Open Cup loss to Seattle and a friendly defeat to Real Madrid threaten to tarnish the Galaxy’s otherwise stellar 2011 campaign heading into Wednesday’s league match against Columbus (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“We were disappointed [last] Wednesday in Seattle,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said on Saturday night after the 4-1 defeat to Madrid. “Tonight was a difficult game and a game that’s not great on the confidence necessarily. It’s a big game to play midweek.”
LA will host the Crew on Wednesday in what will be the only league match on the Galaxy’s calendar in mid-July. Between games against Chicago on July 9, a 2-1 win at the Home Depot Center, and at Vancouver on July 30, Columbus are LA's only opportunity to pick up points during that stretch and try to extend their slimming lead over Seattle for first place in the Western Conference.
With the standings tightening up, the match becomes even more significant.
“League is always our No. 1 focus,” said defender Todd Dunivant. “We’ve set ourselves up well. Seattle now is one point behind us. They have been pushing really hard and Dallas is right there and so is Salt Lake. It’s tight and we have to do a good job in [Wednesday’s] game.”
Complicating matters is the team’s health concerns, as several players including Omar Gonzalez, A.J. DeLaGarza and Mike Magee have had their share of recent ailments. However, the team’s minds could also be a bit bruised, and straightening out the mentality to get it back on track is priority No. 1.
“The key is to prepare for the next opponent with the mindset that we want to win the game and put this [Real Madrid] game behind us,” defender Gregg Berhalter said. “It was a great experience for a lot of guys, and it’s over now and our confidence shouldn’t be shaken. We should just keep going.”
Recovering from Saturday’s setback will be challenging, but losing by three goals to Real Madrid is different than losing by three to a league opponent where the points are far more important.
“It’s not a game that we’re going to see the rest of the year — maybe next weekend [against Manchester City],” Donovan said, referring to Sunday's World Football Challenge match at the Home Depot Center. “But other than that, we’re not playing against Cristiano Ronaldo or Kaká in our league. It’s a different situation for us and we take it for what it is.”
A win for the Galaxy over Columbus would push them to four points clear of Seattle with 14 games remaining.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to do well in the league,” added Donovan, “[and] to continue doing well in the league.”