[MLS: Playoff Push]The LA Galaxy isn't there yet, but the two-time defending champion will have every chance to prove it can repeat yet again. The first order will be to erase the memory of its 3-1 loss at Vancouver in May with a win on Saturday against the fifth-place Whitecaps whom they lead by only one point.
THE STORY SO FAR.The best team in the league after the All-Star break last year is poised for another strong finish in what is shaping up as a fierce fight for playoff spots.
RECENT MOVES. Upgrading defender Omar Gonzalez to a DP contract at a reported $1.5 million salary is a commendable move; with that out of the way he should be a force down the stretch as he was last season. Yet the key deal of summer 2013 is keeper Jaime Penedo, who gave up two goals in his debut (a 4-2 roasting of Real Salt Lake) but already looks far more competent and composed than Carlo Cudicini.
STYLE POINTS.Where does one start? Robbie Keane is capable of an MVP performance just about every night and Landon Donovan looks sharp enough to rip teams up right through early December. Marcelo Sarvashas improved his consistency and solidified a midfield that lurched in its first few months without David Beckham. Young players Gyasi Zardes and Jose Villarrealhave started a combined 22 games.
NEEDS WORK.Mike Magee’s loss has yet to be fully overcome. His goals, experience and savvy in the attacking third are missed. The burden of Concacaf Champions League play could prove heavy if Gonzalez and Donovan come back fatigued from national team duty or the squad is hit by injuries. Penedo will also be bouncing back and forth to play for Panama, and can’t be expected to cover for numerous breakdowns in the back. No team has conceded more goals in the last 15 minutes of games than the Galaxy (17). The Robbie Rogers Experiment? Don’t ask.
FINAL ANSWER. Eight of its last 10 games are against conference opponents, starting Saturday at BC Place against Vancouver, which sits in fifth place and trails the Galaxy by only a point. The two-time defending champion will have every chance to prove it can repeat yet again.
August 24: @Vancouver
August 31: San Jose
September 7: Colorado
September 14: @D.C. United
September 18: Metapan (CCL)
September 21: Seattle
September 25: @ Cartagines (CCL)
September 29: @Portland
October 6: Chivas USA
October 16: Montreal
October 20: San Jose
October 24: @Metapan (CCL)
October 27: @Seattle