Omar Gonzalez sets up for a shot against Morelia, September 13, 2011.

Galaxy to approach playoffs with same resolute focus

CARSON, Calif. – David Beckham training with Tottenham, players going on international duty, high-profile friendlies, US Open Cup play and the CONCACAF Champions League.

The LA Galaxy have had numerous things to keep them preoccupied from the start of training camp through the final game of the regular season. But whether it was an off-the-field situation, a daunting schedule or a slate of non-MLS games, the Galaxy kept their wits, stayed focused and plowed ahead.

Now, they will head into the playoffs with a load of confidence buoyed by what has been one of the team’s most beneficial qualities from 2011: their uncanny ability to focus on the task at hand.

“We’ve been through the ringer the last three years,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. “We’ve had this team together the last three years and … we know what to expect. We know there’s ups and downs and you have to kind of keep a level head about everything. We’ve done a very good job of that this year.”

Balancing a loaded calendar may have sunk other clubs. After all, before the season even kicked off, the Galaxy were guaranteed of 41 games (34 regular-season, one US Open Cup and six Champions League matches). Add to that World Football Challenge fixtures against Real Madrid and Manchester City, and the Galaxy’s calendar looked daunting.

Instead, LA looked at matches in front of them and nothing more. If coaches were keeping an eye on games other than the next one on their calendar, they weren’t sharing that information, at least not publicly.

All efforts were on the next game, period. And that won’t change now that the playoffs have arrived.

“We’re going to keep it how we’ve been all year, just focus on the game at hand and just put all of your efforts in that game and just focus,” defender Omar Gonzalez said. “If we do that, we’re going to go to the final and we’re going to win it.”

Still, there is a slight wrinkle to the Galaxy’s upcoming matches. For starters, players started the week not knowing who they would play or where they would travel to for the weekend’s first leg. Having to balance a two-leg playoff series is a different obstacle than what the team has faced in 2011.

But such a setup is only a slight variation on what the Galaxy have seen this year, and players said their ability to focus won’t change much.

“Obviously, that first game, you want to go in, you want to be smart and you want to try and get a result on the road and we’ve been good about that this year,” Dunivant said. “That’s a huge first game to get yourself in good footing and give yourself a chance at home.”

Focusing on the upcoming match and not letting any distractions have helped the Galaxy win the Supporters’ Shield and gives the team plenty of confidence on their road towards MLS Cup. If players hold up their end of the bargain, they will come out ahead, according to Gonzalez.

“I’ve been saying all year, we’ve just got to worry about ourselves and if we show up on that day we’re going to win,” he said. “We have the talent, we have the work ethic and we have a great bond between all of us. If we show up on the day, start the game well, end the game well, just focus the whole game, I think we have a high possibility of coming out on top. We’ve just got to worry about ourselves.”

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