CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have faced a series of “must-win” games as a winless stretch covering nearly two months has all but killed their postseason dreams. But on Sunday they finally won one of them – a 3-0 triumph over the visiting Seattle Sounders – to boost whatever chances they have.
Now comes another, again at StubHub Center, on Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps (10 pm ET | TSN1/4 – Full TV and streaming info). Another victory, and perhaps this last-ditch push will get them to the promised land.
That's how the Galaxy see things following their most complete performance since early July. LA vaulted past the Whitecaps, 2-1 losers at home against FC Dallas in a game played at the same time, into seventh place and sit just three points out of sixth place in Western Conference with four games to go.
“It isn't breathing room, but it puts us back in the conversation,” Dominic Kinnear said after posting his first victory as LA's interim head coach. “And that was the message before the game, when were sitting around, talking: Let's not worry about what other teams are doing, let's try to get ourselves back into it.
“Obviously, when people [have been] talking about possibilities of making the playoffs, our name is never mentioned. Not that I take it personal; I can see where they're coming from. But with a win now, obviously, the conversation changes a little bit.”
This week has been good for LA (41 points). They're among five teams that appear to be battling for the final three Western berths, and each of the other four – Portland (47), Real Salt Lake (45), Seattle (44) and Vancouver (40) – lost this weekend. The Sounders (13-11-5) were defeated twice this week and sit just three points ahead of LA with one game in hand.
The Whitecaps (11-11-7) are just a point behind LA with one game more on their schedule, but the Galaxy would have the advantage with a victory next weekend.
“It's a huge week for both of us,” Kinnear said. “It's coming down to the wire, as MLS playoff races seem to do, so we know it's going to be a tough game. Kei Kamara's having a great season, they're not afraid of being very direct and very physical. So we must bring our tough game next week.”
The Galaxy, who had gone seven games without a win since beating Orlando City SC on July 29, have treated their last few outings like playoff games. But as each ended in disappointment, it increasingly appeared that they're going to miss the postseason for the second straight year and for only the fifth time in the club's 23 MLS campaigns.
Now there's some hope.
“With this game, we gave ourselves some life, that's the thing,” said forward Ola Kamara, who won the penalty kick that Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted to provide a 9th-minute lead and finished Romain Alessandrini's feed to double the advantage in the 40th minute. “Now we go into this week, we have to still work hard. Maybe we have to change a little but of stuff.
“But I think it was good [against Seattle]. We get the clean sheet, we get the three goals. I think we get the confidence, so I'm looking forward to Saturday.”
Kinnear knows it won't be easy against the Whitecaps.
“Every game is a tough game, no matter what, but now the importance grows,” he said. “We have four games left, and we're just a little bit away from Seattle and Portland and Real Salt Lake. So now we're in touching distance, where maybe before the game, it wasn't that.
“Obviously you go on a small, mini-run, you can advance.”
Every game “is a final” that “we need to win if we want to go further,” said Ibrahimovic, who scored his 18th goal of the season with the spot kick and picked up his ninth assist on Kamara's goal.
“We still have a chance, and we will do everything to take care of the situation we are in,” he said. “As long as we have a chance, we will go for it.
“It feels good to win, but we are not in the playoff ... yet. If we come in the playoffs, we'll feel even better.”