When you play for a club like the LA Galaxy, your competition extends beyond that of the league or even the region. No, when you play for trophies on a team with as many trophies as the Galaxy, perhaps your stiffest competition comes from history itself, and how you will be remembered against the teams that came before you.
As the season winds to a close, one can't help but wonder how the eyes of history will treat the Galaxy of 2016. Of course, there are still 4 games left to play and it's hard to talk legacy without knowing how this team will ultimately fare in the playoffs, but that's what makes every game from here on out so intriguing. From here on out, legacy is on the line and the spectrum of outcomes couldn't be wider.
Heading into Sunday, the Galaxy are in second place in the Supporters Shield race, just 4 points behind Dallas. It would be the Galaxy's first supporters shield since 2011, which many consider to be the greatest Galaxy team of all time. Of course, before that, the last was only a year earlier, 2010, and the difference in legacy between those two years is quite clear. Despite being of arguably equal talent level for most of the year, the 2010 team which was so dominant in the regular season ultimately choked in the playoffs. The 2011, team, however, did not, and they are remembered far more fondly because of it. They went on to win MLS Cup, completing only the second double in LA Galaxy history, the first being in 2002.
While this LA Galaxy team has not seemed anywhere near as dominant as either of those teams, they currently sit on only 4 losses. The Galaxy in 2002 lost 9 games while the storied defensive juggernaut that was the 2011 team lost 5. If the Galaxy don't lose another game this season, they will go down as the most unbeatable Galaxy team of all time and in a tie with the fewest losses in league history. Of course, this will mean little without at least MLS Cup, but it is something that can make them stand above the cups of 2005 and 2012 if they do.
Speaking of ties, the fact that this team has only lost 4 times and isn't in a comfortable lead in the supporters shield race speaks to something else. Sure this team rarely loses, but, if you want to talk history you also have to talk about how the Galaxy are only 3 ties away from tying the MLS record in ties set by Chicago in 2014, and, if the Galaxy don't win another game this year, they will be tied for 4th among Galaxy teams with the fewest wins behind 2008, 2007 and 2003.
As you can see, there are a lot of ways this can play out. If they win the double, it will be only the 3rd in club history, and something even the 2014 team, whose final goal differential was so massive I'm told it's still being calculated by NASA, couldn't do. But that's not all. If they don't lose another season game, they will find themselves tied for fewest losses in league history and the only team to do it in the 34 game era giving them the lowest loss percentage.
Of course, this team could also leave a legacy of underachievement, leaving so many points on the table with ties in the regular season that it costs them the shield. Couple this with a playoff exit and it's a Galaxy season fans will have to shake their heads at.
Then again, they could also go down in history for peculiarity. Maybe Bruce manages to somehow win an MLS Cup in a season where he breaks the tie record and registers the 4th fewest wins in team history, which would just about be the most Bruce Arena thing ever and a fitting end to his career if he chooses to retire.
To be clear, I am not projecting any of these scenarios to happen, however, the fact that all 3 are still possible with only 4 games left to play, speaks to importance of every game from here on out as they are all crucial to defining how we remember this team.
At present, this team is standing at a crossroads, and, barring an injury depleted Rapids team running the table with their games in hand, the Galaxy hold the entirety of their destiny in their hands.
Will this be a season to remember, a season to forget, or even a season to remember for all the wrong reasons? It's all out there to play for, and it runs deeper than the trophies that are on the line. It's about the legacy and where this team places itself in Galaxy history.