Things looked bleak for the LA Galaxy on Sept. 10. Head coach Sigi Schmid resigned after a six-match winless streak that ended with a lifeless 6-2 loss at Real Salt Lake, which looked like a nail in the coffin of their season. Six weeks later, the team couldn't be any more filled with life.
Interim coach Dom Kinnear has led the team on a four-match unbeaten streak, which culminated with a 3-1 win over Minnesota United FC on Sunday. Coupled with RSL's 3-0 loss at the Portland Timbers, the Galaxy know a win next week against the Houston Dynamo on Decision Day presented by AT&T means the team will make the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. Anything less would see RSL advance.
“It was a hard one. We played against a good team. Playing away in front of 50,000, but like I said, they came for me, us, and didn’t come for them," said Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored the Galaxy's opener in the 30th minute and assisted Romain Alessandrini's capper in the 51st minute. "We made them enjoy it, so I think they are happy, just as us. It is a nice memory, because I think it is the last game at this stadium. I came, I won, I went, that is the memory they will get.”
The Galaxy missed the playoffs last season, finishing the season at the bottom of the table, and much was expected from a team that brought in Ola Kamara, Perry Kitchen, Jorgen Skjelvik and David Bingham in the offseason. Some of those moves have worked out better than others, but Kinnear has his team on the precipice of reaching the playoffs.
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“The moods good, they’re happy. They know it’s still not over," said the veteran MLS coach after the match. "We accomplished a win on the road which puts us in a spot next week where we can maybe get into the playoffs. I think deep down inside that they’re happy, it’s been a good little run we’ve been on. I do think they do have an eye on the following week, but we’re getting carried away that’s for sure.”
Ibrahimovic has put himself in the Landon Donovan MLS MVP conversation with his play, along with the dropoff in performance by Atlanta United's Josef Martinez. He has scored in each of the Galaxy's last five matches and now has 22 goals and 10 assists on the season. He is just the third player in MLS history to put up at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a season.
“I think our playoffs started five games ago because we needed to win to make it still possible to make the playoffs. If we lost any of them we were out. To play under pressure like that is not easy," the Swedish superstar said. "The guys should have all the credit for that because we are playing under high pressure and we are handling it well. The guys are handling it very well, we are controlling it very well and we play with confidence. Dom [Kinnear] he gives us a lot of confidence. He keeps the basics simple and we just go out and try to do what we are able to do and we are doing it well at the moment.”