CARSON, Calif.—The LA Galaxy find themselves in familiar territory on Wednesday, when they host Real Salt Lake (10:30 pm ET, UniMás | TSN in Canada) in the Knockout Round of the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
For seven straight years, the Galaxy have finished the regular season with at least 50 points, making the playoffs each time. They've claimed two Supporters’ Shield victories and three MLS Cup trophies. With all that in the rear view, does head coach Bruce Arena still step back to appreciate these moments?
“At this point in the season right now I’m not talking about anything being special,” Arena said. “I think we’ve kept our heads above water, I think we’ve been somewhat consistent in the fact that we’ve been a team that’s been in a position to win MLS Cup almost each and every year so that’s okay. But we’ll see how the year plays out.”
It’s understandable if the 65-year-old coach isn’t taking time to stop and smell the roses. Both teams in this Knockout Round match have to deal with a short turnaround while injuries take their toll after a long season.
Robbie Keane returned to full training Monday and said he would be good to go on Wednesday. Steven Gerrard’s recovery from a hamstring injury is not as advanced at this stage, while Gyasi Zardes hasn’t returned to training despite Arena remaining hopeful he can rejoin the team before the year’s over. All this while Landon Donovan, who did not play professional soccer for nearly two seasons, started the last two matches.
For Arena that’s not just par for the course this season, it’s the state of the league these days.
“I think you talk about trying to be two deep in each position,” Arena said. “We probably have had as many players out during the year as any team in the league.
“So to be still standing, having our heads above water at this point proves that we’ve been able to cope with the different injuries and issues that we’ve had. So that’s a positive. But it doesn’t matter now, we’re down to one game.”
Player movement and injuries also played a role in Brian Rowe getting the opportunity to earn the Galaxy’s starting goalkeeper spot. Now he’s leading a team into the playoffs, making his first postseason appearance across the pitch from fellow UCLA product Nick Rimando, who made his MLS debut three years before the 27-year-old Rowe started high school.
“He’s a great goalie,” Rowe said. “He’s had a real long good career in MLS, and [he's] a goalie that I’ve enjoyed watching for a long time. We’ve just gotta play our game.”