CARSON, Calif. – The Los Angeles Galaxy must still toil through at least another five weeks if the club is to reach its ultimate goal and capture a third MLS Cup title.
But one of the club's major goals for this season is within sight. With a win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, the Galaxy would clinch the Supporters' Shield for the first time since 2002 and would also claim home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Since the start of the season, Galaxy players listed the Supporters' Shield alongside winning MLS Cup and success in other tournaments as their top goals. Now that first bit of silverware is a victory away, and the team is determined to not let up.
"It's important," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said when asked about beating Colorado on Saturday. "We'd like to have that as it obviously qualifies us automatically for group play in the Champions League, which is important and that headache is past us. Certainly it gives us hopefully somewhat of an advantage in the playoffs with home-field if we get [it] and what we're positioned for."
The Galaxy had a standout early run in 2010 as the club was unbeaten in its first 12 league matches, a streak that was snapped in June. After a summer swoon saw their lead shrink, the Galaxy were able to put distance between first place and the other teams chasing them, notably Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas. Entering the penultimate weekend of the 2010 regular season, the Galaxy hold a four-point edge over RSL and are six points clear of the Hoops.
Still, Arena said his team does not always get the credit such lofty statistics would merit.
"I'm constantly amazed at the sense that people feel we haven't accomplished much," he said. "We have 56 points now – we had 48 last year. We have scored 41 this year and we scored 36 last year."
The Galaxy, though, have not been the dominant force in the latter part of the season that they were from March through May. RSL overtook them briefly on two occasions for the Shield lead, but LA were able to take back control of first place each time.
"Has it been been perfect?" Arena said. "No, come on. ... In all honesty, I think we've done fine. We've had a sluggish period. We're still not out of it but we've won four out of our last five games. I'm not sure there's too many teams in the league this year who have won four out of five games and have gotten 12 out of 15 points at any time. It ain't that bad."
Unfortunately for LA, the Seattle Sounders have also accomplished the feat. If the playoffs began today, the Galaxy’s first-round matchup would be the Sounders, and Seattle are currently riding a four-game winning streak with 13 points from their last five games.
Still, the Galaxy set the bar high this season despite having a load of challenges to deal with.
"It's been a very awkward year with injuries, suspensions, personal matters, World Cup," Arena said. "It has been awkward from start to finish. It's been tough. It's been much more difficult this year than last year."