Playoffs "a totally different game," say LA Galaxy after Decision Day stumble

HOUSTON – Even though the LA Galaxy already had a playoff ticket in hand, they considered it important to finish the season strong against the already-eliminated Houston Dynamo on Decision Day presented by AT&T.

Instead, the Galaxy limped to their second consecutive loss, leaking four goals in both games, leaving many to wonder how they’ll fare in the upcoming Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.

An afternoon that started with a glorious goal by their star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic ended in a 4-2 defeat to the Dynamo under the Texas heat. The recent highs and lows of the Galaxy might be a reason to worry, but with characteristic confidence, Ibra expressed that it’s a whole new challenge once playoffs start.

“Good question. I think we have to wait until the playoffs, which doesn’t mean nothing because it’s a totally different game in the playoffs than this last game,” said Ibrahimovic. “Today we played for the position and with a loss or draw, we are still in the playoffs.”

With Sunday’s loss, Galaxy handed homefield advantage to Minnesota Unitedthanks in no small part to ex-Loon Christian Ramirez, who scored two goals against LA. Though Ibra & co. had already secured a playoff spot a while ago, the stumble in Houston deprives them of a home playoff match.

“I mean, after [last month's win over] Salt Lake we were in the playoffs and I think these two games haven’t been what we are able to do. Conceding these goals in two games against two teams that are not in the playoffs is not good, obviously. But actually, we are in the playoffs and now I think it’s at Minnesota away. So hopefully it will be a good game,” added Ibrahimovic.

The Swede finished the regular season with 30 goals in 29 games, though he lamented missing a few games to injury and suspension as LAFC’s Carlos Vela (with 34 goals) edged him to the Golden Boot presented by Audi, and remains essential to the Galaxy.

“He has been very important to us. He scored 30 goals. He spent the entire season battling Carlos Vela, who ended up being the leading scorer. Both have had an excellent season,” said head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto. “He knows what we are talking about. He is very strong.”

Schelotto said that his team “relaxed” after obtaining their ticket to the playoffs, but that they will be ready for the games to come.

“Our rival will be Minnesota. So we need to prepare. We are ready. We are a very good team,” he said.

As for the other members of Galaxy, they aren’t too pleased about dropping their last two games.

“Yeah, guys are pissed. We just lost a game 4-2 that we had no business losing at all,” said goalkeeper David Bingham, who called his team’s consecutive losses to Vancouver and Houston embarrassing. “So guys are upset right now, and then we’ve got to get home and let it go and get everyone healthy and feeling good for two weeks.”

The Galaxy ended their regular season with 51 points and an away record of 5-10-2; for better or worse, that is a thing of the past and now they must focus on their present – the playoffs.

“We have to be better and going in the playoffs now you can’t play games like that or you’re going home,” said Bingham. “That’s just the reality of it and we’ve got two weeks to kind of get healthy and get everyone feeling good, and then we got a big one.”

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