With the draw against San Jose last night, the LA Galaxy clinched their record fifteenth appearance in the MLS playoffs and fifth straight such appearance trailing only Real Salt Lake who have made six straight. During this streak they have made four straight Western Conference finals, winning three.
The only time the LA Galaxy have missed the playoffs was a three year stretch from 2006-08, when Chivas USA entered the league and David Beckham came over. Their eight Western Conference championships are the most in MLS history, winning MLS Cup in four of those years. So it's understandable that the team isn't exactly turning cartwheels over making the MLS Cup playoffs.
"Well," said Landon Donovan, "we clinched a spot (in the playoffs) but we wanted more and I think we feel like we let an opportunity slip through our hands. I think the expectation is to make the playoffs and we had the chance to do something more, so we are disappointed by we have to move on and we have to big games this week so we have to move on."
The Galaxy can still move up in the standings, if Chivas USA can find a way to keep Portland or Real Salt Lake from getting all three points in their respective matches this week. They can also fall into the play-in game if Seattle or Colorado outplay the Galaxy this upcoming weekend. LA will have to rest up their starters, with Dovovan and Gonzalez both looking worse for wear. That means the reserves will be in charge of the midweek CONCACAF Champions League trip.
"We know what we have to do," said Donovan. "We would love to avoid the play-in game but we also have the experience from last year from being able to win the championship if we have to go that route. We'll try to win the game in Seattle and go from there."
LA not only won the 2012 MLS Cup from a wildcard position, but won the 2005 MLS Cup as the lowest seeded team in the playoffs. That year LA finished ahead of only two expansion teams (four out of six in the conference made the playoffs) and didn't win a road match until August.
With only three points separating first from fifth, it'll be hard to argue against any team being a deserving Western Conference champion. If the nil-nil draws between Portland/RSL and Galaxy/San Jose are any indication, the playoffs are going to tightly contested will little to separate the two sides.
This weekend was a disappointment, but there's still all to play for in Seattle. Avoiding the play-in game by handing Seattle its fifth straight loss would give LA momentum going into the playoffs where anything can happen.