CARSON, Calif. – Major League Soccer coaches and players usually have a good idea by this time of the season what it will take to reach the MLS Cup playoffs.
But not this year in the Western Conference. Aside from pace-setting Los Angeles FC, only six points separate the second- through seventh-place teams. And Portland, in eighth place, is just three points out of the last playoff spot with all of its remaining eight games at home.
“I haven’t done the numbers or anything,” Galaxy defender Dan Steres said as the club prepares for Sunday’s important clash with Seattle (3:30 p.m., Fox, Fox Sports 1) at CenturyLink Field. The game is a rematch of a spirited 2-2 tie between the teams on Aug. 17, when the Galaxy played with 10 men after Steres was red-carded in the fifth minute. “It’s so tight.
“We just have to get as many points as possible.”
Goalkeeper David Bingham echoed those sentiments.
“In years past you usually could say 50 or 52 points get you in,” he pointed out. “Who knows? We’ve just got to win as many games as we can.”
The Galaxy, coming off an emotional 3-3 tie with bitter, crosstown rival LAFC last Sunday at Banc of California Stadium, has seven games left, including four on the road. Those stops include Seattle on Sunday, at Colorado (Sept. 11), at Real Salt Lake (Sept. 25) and at Houston (Oct. 6) to end the regular season. Their home dates are Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 15, Montreal (Sept. 21) and Vancouver (Sept. 29).
“It looks good,” Steres said of the schedule. “We’ve got games here at home we can get points out of, and we’ve got games against rivals that are right in the pack with us on the road. Those are big ones with us, especially this weekend.
“We’re coming down the stretch run, and I think it’s more about how we’re playing and how we’re going to finish out to push ourselves into the playoffs rather than worrying about who we’re playing.”
Steres shook his head when he was asked about the packed playoff race in the West. LAFC is the runaway leader with 62 points, followed by Real Salt Lake with 43 points, the Galaxy and Minnesota with 42, San Jose with 41 and FC Dallas with 40. Portland is eighth with 37 points.
“It’s like three points from second to seventh or something like that?” he said. “Maybe another three to the next team? Yeah, it’s really tight, but there’s even a chance a team or two that’s in the top right now drops out because those couple of teams right below the line are pushing as well.
“It’s extremely tight. We’re all talking about it and about what we need to do. We need to get as many points as possible.”
Bingham said he knows how the Galaxy can accomplish that.
“If we play like we did against LAFC or how we did early in the year, we’ll be in good shape,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter who you play. You’ve got to come to play, and we know we have a couple on the road we know we’re going to have to win.
“If we step on the field and come to play, there’s not too many teams that can play with us. We have to bring that mentality every game.”
The Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget said the Galaxy must guard against a letdown this weekend – “It’s never been an easy game in Seattle,” he said — after such an emotional game against LAFC.
“It’s all about momentum,” said Lletget who was one of five players called up to their national teams. Besides Lletget (United States), the others were Jonathan dos Santos and Uriel Antuna (Mexico), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Costa Rica) and Rolf Feltscher (Venezuela). The quintet is expected to play in Seattle and then leave for next week’s respective friendlies. “Even though we walked away with a point, there’s some positives in that.
“There’s definitely a good feeling around the place right now. I think we’re together and have the right mentality.”
Added dos Santos, “We’re confident. I think the team has demonstrated in the last four matches that it’s a team that can beat anyone.
“It’s true there’s been situations in games that haven’t gone in our favor, but the team feels good. We are working on it, and the main priority is making the playoffs.”
The Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic received treatment for a sore Achilles tendon and did not train Friday, but Galaxy head coach Guillermo Schelotto said he was confident he will be ready for Sunday’s match.