The LA Galaxy will wrap up the 2020 season with a game against Vancouver that means nothing. But to Dominic Kinnear, it means everything!
Sunday’s regular-season finale between the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps at Portland’s Providence Park (3:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet) is a meaningless game, at least on the surface. Both teams have been eliminated from the MLS Cup postseason picture and essentially are playing out the string.
Galaxy interim head coach Dominic Kinnear, however, is of a different mind-set. The third-winningest coach in Major League Soccer history behind Sigi Schmid and Bruce Arena said there is a great deal to play for, even though current league standings indicate otherwise.
“We have an opportunity to step on the field and end the season in a positive manner, which is entirely our ambition,” said Kinnear, who is 1-0-1 since replacing Guillermo Barros Schelotto on Oct. 29. “I’ve always said, someone once told me, ‘Never miss a chance to impress, no matter what time of the season, first game, last game, first minute, last minute.’
“You always have a chance to impress somebody, and I think that’s the way they should be playing this game on Sunday.”
The Galaxy (6-11-4, 10th in the Western Conference) are trying to bounce back from a disappointing 1-1 tie with the Seattle Sounders which featured Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s second goal of the season — and first in four months — but ended on a frustrating note thanks to a tying goal by Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz in the 93rd minute. Kinnear said the post-game locker room “was not a good place to be” and he was happy to see his players still caring despite seeing their playoff hopes vanquished.
“I’d be disappointed if people weren’t saying anything,” he told reporters. “To look at it, we played well … good win against (Real) Salt Lake, a decent draw against Seattle, hoping for the win.
“The mood from the guys has been very positive. I think they’re looking forward to the game on Sunday. I think it’s also a little sad knowing this was going to be our last competitive game of 2020.”
Kinnear was asked not only what disappointed him the most about this season but what surprised him.
“Obviously the record is the most disappointing thing. That’s an easy answer right there,” he replied. “I didn’t think this was a team that would be out of the playoffs coming into the last game of the season. After what we were doing in the preseason I thought this team would be jockeying for a playoff spot and seeing if we were going to host a game or not.
“At times we were sitting in the bottom of the Western Conference. That for me was very surprising. Disappointing and surprising, I think, maybe kind of almost fall into the same answer. Disappointed with how the season went and surprising because I didn’t think it was going to happen.”
Kinnear also said nothing is definite about his coaching future. The 53-year-old figures to be among the candidates for the Galaxy’s permanent head coaching position, but he said he’s not concerned with that at the moment. He is, however, worried about finishing the season on a positive note.
“Right now what happens after this last game, it’s not what I’m looking for,” he said. “Whatever happens happens. I’m a very loyal servant to the LA Galaxy and they’ve been very good to me over three-plus years. I leave those decisions and meetings and conversations to the people that want to make those.
“I’m not pushing for anything here. I just want to make sure we end the season in a good way.”
Kinnear announced midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, who suffered a strained left calf against Seattle, will not be available Sunday. Neither will midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who was called up to the U.S. men’s national team as it prepares for upcoming friendlies against Wales and Panama. Backup goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann has a “shoulder issue,” according to Kinnear, and has not trained for almost a week. His status for Sunday is doubtful.