CARSON, Calif. – With one game left in the 2010 MLS regular season, the LA Galaxy’s path toward MLS Cup is still unclear.
The Galaxy close out the season Sunday against FC Dallas at the Home Depot Center. The outcome of that game could make LA the Western Conference champs and Supporters’ Shield holders, or it could see them fall to second place and face the prospect of playing a potential conference final on the road.
“We still control our own destiny,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “Next weekend means everything.”
Los Angeles failed to take advantage of destiny on Saturday when the Colorado Rapids overcame an early deficit to win 3-1. Still, a victory over FCD would guarantee the Galaxy their third Supporters’ Shield as well as home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
For their part, the players are thinking only of winning the Shield. But that’s what they had planned for against Colorado.
“We were expecting really to win the game [Saturday] and then it would be all done with and going into the playoffs,” Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall said. “But it doesn’t really happen the way we expect things to go.”
A Galaxy win against the Rapids would have clinched the trophy, meaning the game against the Hoops on Saturday would have been a mere formality before the postseason began. But an LA loss combined with a Real Salt Lake victory against FCD threw that scenario out the window.
“It’s changed from having more of a relaxed week to a not intense one but one that we have to be up for,” Galaxy midfielder David Beckham said. “It’s important that we now concentrate this week, put this game behind us and hopefully win next week.”
If there is any sort of possible silver lining to Saturday’s loss, it’s that Colorado should enter their season-ending match against RSL with a load of confidence. A Rapids win over their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals would seal the Shield for LA, and the Galaxy’s matchup against the Hoops would no longer be do-or-die. If RSL win or tie, the Galaxy would have to beat FC Dallas. A draw or loss on Sunday would give RSL first place and the Supporters’ Shield.
“It’s either first or second next weekend,” Galaxy defender Sean Franklin said. “We want to be in first place next week so regardless of that result – we’re not really worried about that – we’re worried about what we’ve got to do next week and that’s get three points against Dallas.”
After falling 2-0 at Rio Tinto Stadium, FC Dallas enter Sunday’s game in a bit of a strange situation. The loss was just the Hoops' third of the season and first since losing to the Galaxy 1-0 at Pizza Hut Park on May 20.
The result ensured that FCD will finish either in third or fourth place in the Western Conference, and they will play either the Galaxy or RSL in the first round of the playoffs.
“With Salt Lake winning, it really puts Dallas out of winning the [West],” Birchall said. “They’ll still be coming here with confidence. They’ll probably want to win the last game before going into the playoffs. But we know if we win, we win the Supporters’ Shield, same as [last Saturday]. We’ve just got to go out, try to be confident and win the game.”
Ultimately, the Galaxy will determine their own fate and the onus falls on the players once more to right the wrongs in order to fully recover before the playoffs begin.
“It’s in our own hands. If we do our own job – if we’d have done our job [against Colorado], we’d have ended up topping [the table],” Beckham said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got one more game to put it right and it’s down to us.”