CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's sizzling start to the season was a long time ago, and three road straight losses — part of a 5-10 stretch since early May — had them on the verge of falling below the playoff line in a tight Western Conference race.
The timing of a 2-0 triumph Wednesday night over visiting FC Dallas, claimed on two Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals, a second sterling outing from newcomer Cristian Pavon and the club's best defensive performance since the Fourth of July, couldn't have been better
“That was huge,” midfielder Sebastian Lletget said afterward. “We didn't want to call it a make-or-break-season game, but if we didn't get these points, it would have been downhill. We knew that subconsciously around the group, and — especially after that loss [last weekend at D.C. United] that I don't think we deserved — we knew that we had to turn it around today.”
The Galaxy, who were second in the Supporters' Shield standings for much of the first four months of the season, jumped from fifth to third in the West as they seek a playoff nod after missing out the past two seasons. It's not going to be easy. Next up on Saturday are the Seattle Sounders (10 pm ET | ESPN2, MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada), just a point behind LA, followed by a Leagues Cup semifinal with Cruz Azul. Then another El Trafico showdown with LAFC awaits, this time up the Harbor Freeway at Banc of California Stadium.
The clash with the Sounders is just as vital as Wednesday's game. How the Galaxy fare could determine how they approach Tuesday's home encounter with Cruz Azul.
“I think it's sort of back-to-back super-important games,” Lletget said. “This is crunch time, and we definitely need to get in a position where we don't have to worry about [qualifying for the playoffs].”
Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto agrees.
“I think [today's result was] very important, but the next game will be important, too. Not just today,” he said during his postgame media session. “We need to think game by game. We need to know every point, every game we're playing now until October 6, will be very important.
“We have now a very important game on Saturday, and we need to think 100 percent on this game. We finish the game with Seattle, we start to think about the Cruz Azul game.”
The Galaxy were the only MLS club to win an opener in the new Leagues Cup, a joint venture between MLS and Liga MX, getting past Club Tijuana on penalties last month after a 2-2 draw. A win over Cruz Azul would send LA to the Sept. 18 final in Las Vegas against Club America or UANL Tigres.
Conventional wisdom suggests a Galaxy win over Seattle would increase the possibility that Schelotto might use something akin to a first-team lineup against the Mexico City giant. After, they'll have five days to prepare for another meeting against LAFC.
“Every game is big,” Ibrahimovic said. “Because everybody is needing points to feel more safe, to be in this first seven spots [to qualify for the postseason]. Every game will be important.”