Last season, LA Galaxy spent all but a few minutes of the MLS regular season inside the playoff bubble. Unfortunately for them, the few minutes they spent outside the bubble, were the final few minutes of the season as they watched their playoff hopes dashed on the final day of the season.
It’s something the team has talked about all year, and what they've worked all year long to try and avoid. In some ways, they're lucky this time around, as there has been no sense of comfort at any point in 2022. The entire season has been one long playoff push for the G’s as they've hovered around the playoff line for most of the year. Now, with just 10 matches left in the regular season, Galaxy have their work cut out for them, with a hefty stretch of must-win matches, should they hope to avoid another year without the playoffs.
On Friday, LA face off in what is the biggest match of the season — yes, even bigger than the LA rivalry matches have been this season — hosting the Seattle Sounders. The two sides are separated by just two points, with Seattle currently on the outside looking in. While Galaxy might appear to be in sixth, a close look at the points total will show a four-team tie, meaning any slip and the G’s could find themselves sliding to as low as tenth in an instant.
As big, and important as the Seattle match is tomorrow, it is merely the tip of the iceberg. The start of what will be a difficult road to the playoffs for LA. Five of Galaxy’s final 10 matches will be against direct competitors for the final playoff spots, including this weekend’s match against the Sounders. Despite two matches being against teams not even in their own conference, those matches will be just as intense as both Toronto FC and New England Revolution are in playoff battles of their own in the Eastern Conference, so they will be just as motivated as any team to topple the Galaxy when they meet.
All that is to say, these final 10 matches are going to be big. Each one will be a must-win until the Galaxy are either completely out of the playoff race altogether, or until the team secures a spot they can't be knocked from, which looks highly unlikely given the recent form and how close the postseason race is at the moment. Galaxy know just how important this stretch of matches is, not just for this year, but the club as a whole.
The team hasn't seen a postseason since 2019, where they were eliminated in the Conference Semifinals by their LA rivals. It's been since 2014 that the team achieved the ultimate prize of lifting the MLS Cup, and fans have waited long enough. At the very least, people need to see progress, and missing the postseason for a third straight season isn’t progression at all. Luckily, the team understand this, and have gotten reinforcements as they gear up for the most important stretch of the year.
As the second MLS transfer window came to a close, the team announced the signing of 23-year-old starlet midfielder, Riqui Puig who came from mega-club FC Barcelona. The young midfielder joins the Galaxy at a critical point in their season, and will be looked at as one of, if not the solution to their inconsistency issues. Puig is set to be thrown right into the fire as he makes his debut against the Sounders tomorrow. According to Head Coach Greg Vanney, Puig will be pulling the strings for the G’s. “Riqui will play in the midfield. For us, he's an attacking midfielder...he’ll be relatively close to the striker.”
The Spaniard understands what he's stepping into as well. When asked if he felt pressure coming into the team late in the season, as the squad is gearing up a fight for a playoff spot, and perform well from the start, the youngster responded, “For the last two months I've been training, so physically I'm fit for this. I understand there's 10 games left, and we have to look at those 10 games trying to win each and every one of them. There’s always pressure in this sport, and honestly I love the pressure. I play better with it, with the fans behind me. I welcome those demands.”
Greg Vanney is building something special here ✨ pic.twitter.com/ZtIiUdqjId— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) August 17, 2022
We talked recently about how getting the right mentality inside the club was key, that it felt like most of the recent troubles the team has had stems not from lacking talent, but from between the ears. The team's recent 5-2 thrashing of Vancouver proved that. Now, the team has to keep that momentum going. Every match going forward is essentially must-win because almost every match going forward is against a direct competitor for the final playoff spots. The best part of it all, is that once again this team controls its destiny. All they have to do is win. By any means necessary, and it doesn't have to be pretty. They can be the ugliest wins in the history of sport, the important thing is that they come, so that this team can get into the postseason and start showing progress. Otherwise, we’ll be faced with another long offseason pondering the what-ifs, and lamenting the what-went-wrongs.
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