CARSON, Calif. – A resounding victory, the most goals in a game since 1998 and a hat trick by Zlatan Ibrahimovic that made him the club’s all-time leader in single-season goals understandably have done wonders for the LA Galaxy.
Their postseason hopes have a new lease on life, thanks to last Sunday’s 7-2 demolishing of Sporting Kansas City, and the five-time MLS Cup champions approach Saturday’s clash with visiting Montreal at Dignity Health Sports Park (7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet) with renewed vigor.
“We have to continue with the same dynamic,” Jonathan dos Santos said. “The team is doing well, feeling confident. We know we haven’t had a regular season, but the most important thing is the end of the season.
“It doesn’t mean we will relax because we scored seven goals our last game. We know we will be playing another final, so we will try to win as always.”
There is no question the recent win helped elevate some sagging fortunes.
“A good mood in the locker room,” defender Dan Steres said with a grin when he was asked what the victory had done for the team. “It puts us above the (playoff) line, which is most important.”
The Galaxy (14-13-3, 45 points) was on the outside looking in only a week ago regarding the MLS Cup playoffs. Now they are fifth in the Western Conference, just one point behind Real Salt Lake and three points behind third-place Minnesota. Seattle is second with 50 points, with Los Angeles FC the runaway leader with 64 points. San Jose and FC Dallas are tied for sixth with 44 points, followed by Portland in eighth place with 43 points.
“They look a lot better,” Steres said of the conference standings, “but we never doubted ourselves. We never thought we were in real trouble. We knew we had the games ahead and we need to take care of those.
“We’re obviously in a better position and we can kind of go for it, but we always had the same goal.”
Dos Santos said the team’s confidence level has improved dramatically in a short time.
“A lot more,” he said. “The fact we won 7-2 the last game, that we played well, that the team was 100 percent.
“Seeing the team at this level is very important.”
The visiting Impact also are looking to improve their playoff position. They are eighth in the East at 11-16-4, but only three points behind seventh-place New England. They’re also coming off an impressive victory, in their case Wednesday’s 1-0 triumph over FC Toronto in the first leg of the Canadian Championship.
Argentinian Ignacio Patti had the game-winning goal and is among their top players. Others include another Argentinian, Maximiliano Urruti, and Frenchman Saphir Taider, who has a team-leading nine goals. Spanish striker Bojan Krkic, however, left Wednesday’s game with a leg injury and his status for Saturday was unclear.
The Galaxy could see a familiar face on the Impact roster in goalkeeper Clement Diop, who was with the Galaxy in 2016 and ’17 and started Wednesday’s game.
The Impact have had their problems on the road, where they are just 4-10-2. They also haven’t won an away game since a 2-1 victory over New York Red Bulls on May 8 and are 0-7-0 on the road since then.
Steres said among the challenges the Galaxy face this weekend is avoiding a letdown.
“We can’t just fall back,” he said. “I don’t know if that was our best game of the season or not, but we scored a lot of goals. We have to continue the process and continue doing what we can do on the field and take care of these home games and the last few games and put ourselves in a good spot.”
Galaxy head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said it was simple what the team must accomplish.
“We need to win, to get the three points to give us a little more comfortable position for the playoffs,” he said.
UPDATE: Reports are circulating that Nacho Piatti, Maxi Urruti, and Bojan did NOT make the trip to Los Angeles.