The LA Galaxy's goals this season are simple: a playoff berth, preferably as a top-three team in the Western Conference; the Supporters' Shield if possible; another MLS Cup title; and a berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League knockout stage. This week could hold the key to most of them.
The Galaxy, in the most challenging stretch of schedule all year, take on El Salvador's Isidro Metapán in a CCL game Wednesday (10 pm ET; Fox Sports 2) and Western/Shield-leading Seattle Sounders in an MLS showdown Saturday, both at the StubHub Center, and success might be enough to propel them toward all but the threepeat.
But they're going to need a lot of their roster to pull it off, especially after travel fatigue impacted them in Saturday's 2-2 draw at D.C. United.
“It's a big week for us, a really big week, and a lot of guys are going to have their number called,” Landon Donovan told media in Washington. “Fortunately, we've had a lot of Reserve games in the last few weeks. We've had a Champions League game, so multiple games to stay pretty fit, and it's going to be a week where we have to use quite a bit of players.
“The Metapán game we have to win – we win that game, and we're in good shape in [our] group. And if we want to have a chance of catching Seattle, we'll have to win on Saturday.”
Donovan, who left the D.C. game with a mild ankle sprain, is expected to be available, although head coach Bruce Arena on Monday said there were no updates on the injury, nor on defender A.J. DeLaGarza's dislocated elbow. Arena on Saturday acknowledged that fatigue among the quartet of players returning from World Cup qualifying duty – Donovan, Robbie Keane, Omar Gonzalez and goalkeeper Jaime Penedo – played “a little bit” of a role in LA's failure to hold onto two leads against United.
Gonzalez agreed, and said it extended to some who traveled only from LA to DC
“I thought we all looked a little tireder from top to bottom ...,” he said. “The whole team kind of had heavy legs today.”
That could impact Arena's lineup decisions Wednesday, especially with the Sounders showdown looming. The games come amid a five-matches-in-16-days stretch that continues with a CCL game next week in Costa Rica against Cartagines and a big clash at Portland the following Saturday.
The Galaxy can all but clinch CCL advancement against Metapán. Win that, and a draw at Cartaginés sends them through. In MLS, they're fourth in the West, five points behind Seattle, four in back of Real Salt Lake and one behind Colorado, but four of their next five games are home, before the Oct. 27 season-ender at Seattle.
The Galaxy believe that having two games to go with the Sounders, who have won five in a row and eight of their last nine, is an advantage. But they won't focus on Seattle until Thursday.
“That's very good for us,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully, we can take some points away from [Seattle], but this is a must-win against Metapán, so that's the first thing on our plate.”