CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy took care of their first priority Sunday evening, nailing down a postseason berth, but whatever joy that produced was accompanied by disappointment they couldn't do more.
The Galaxy (15-11-7) would have vaulted to the top spot in the Western Conference and move within two points of New York's lead in the Supporters' Shield race with a victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at the StubHub Center, but they struggled to create chances and settled for a 0-0 draw that leaves them in third place, requiring some help from their cross-stadium rivals to climb higher.
“We clinched a spot, but we wanted more, and I think we felt we let an opportunity slip through our hands,” forward Landon Donovan said. “I think the expectation here is to make the playoffs, and we had a chance to so something more, so we're disappointed. But we've got to move on.”
The tie sets up a showdown next Sunday in a regular-season closer in Seattle, where LA needs a win to avoid the wild-card game (if Colorado beats Vancouver; a tie would be enough if the Rapids don't win) and could possibly claim the No. 1 seed in the conference – if Chivas USA can take points from second-place Real Salt Lake on Wednesday and Western leader Portland on Saturday.
“We clinched a playoff berth, which is what we wanted to do,” said defender Omar Gonzalez, who, like Donovan, returned from injury. “Sure, we wanted to do more with it, but we didn't lose and keep San Jose alive. ... Hopefully, maybe, Chivas can win some games and keep us in contention to maybe even climb a little higher.”
The Galaxy weren't sharp in the final third, but they were helped by a fine backline performance and a few big saves from goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
“Realistically, we probably didn't deserve [to move into first place],” Donovan said. “I didn't think we played well enough on the night, and a tie was probably a fair result. If we were better on a few chances, then we could have pulled out a win. It's probably a fair result in the end.”
Head coach Bruce Arena seemed neither buoyed by the playoff news nor hugely bothered that his team failed to take command of the race in the West.
Asked about clinching, he said, sarcasm dripping from every word: “Oh, I'm just doing cartwheels over that.” About falling out of the Shield race and remaining in third place: “That's life.”
Robbie Keane felt similarly.
“I don't care about any of that, to be honest with you,” the Galaxy captain said. “I'm just disappointed we didn't take advantage of tonight. Because it was certainly there to be taken, there's no question about that.
“To be fair to [San Jose], they played well, they had a few chances, it could have gone either way. ... We could have done a lot more on certain occasions. Certainly in the last 15 minutes, it was so obvious that was on to catch them in the counter so many times, so many occasions. We just lacked that little killer instinct in the last third.”
Now the Galaxy need a result in Seattle, or they're back in the wild-card game, like last year.
“We know what we have to do. It's very clear,” Donovan said. “We'd love to avoid the play-in game, but we also have the experience from last year of being able to win the championship if we have to go that route.”