CARSON, Calif. — “There is still a chance and we know it,” LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic told reporters after training on Thursday. “We are working hard. I see people on their toes. They want it.”
But for the Galaxy (10-11-8), their Sunday afternoon game against the Seattle Sounders (4 p.m.; FS1) is more than just a chance at three points. No, three points against the visitors are mostly mandatory. Especially with just five games remaining in the season and with FiveThirtyEight only giving the Galaxy an 8% chance of making the postseason.
And, of course, it’s all coming off a seven-game winless streak that hasn’t seen the Galaxy win a game since July 29 — a span that will stretch to 56 days when the ball is finally kicked at StubHub Center.
The Sounders (13-10-5) are facing a different challenge when they travel south on Sunday. Having just had their nine-game winning streak and 12-game unbeaten streak snapped in unusual fashion by the 10-man Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night, they must set aside all the wins and streaks and try and get back on track on short rest and perhaps much more shorthanded than they would like.
Midseason addition and designated player Raul Ruidiaz had to be subbed off in the first half with an ankle injury and will miss this Sunday’s match in Carson. Midfielder Harry Shipp is also a scratch from the lineup with a hamstring strain, and defender Chad Marshall, who was subbed at halftime of the midweek game because of a large bump on his head, could be a game-time decision.
But the Galaxy are also struggling with injuries, and have been for most of the season.
Designated Player Giovani dos Santos isn’t likely to play after missing training all week. He continues to struggle with a quad strain and has played in just 13 games this season and been on the field for just 31-percent of the club’s total available minutes in 2018.
Also likely to miss are midfielder Chris Pontius (with a groin strain) and Bradford Jamieson IV (strained hip).
Sebastian Lletget, who’s been working to recover from an abdominal strain, could be a game-time decision but interim head coach Dominic Kinnear knows he’d like to get him on the team sheet even if he doesn’t start.
The Galaxy have given up 23 goals during their seven-game winless streak while the Sounders, on the flip side, have allowed just 29 goals all season — a stat they lead the league in. With the Galaxy having allowed 59 goals on the season — a stat that puts the defense as the 3rd worst in the league — a major defensive improvement will need to be made if they’re to stay competitive in this match.
“When you look at the standings and where we are with Seattle, if we don’t win the game I think we’re mathematically still alive,” Kinnear explained. “Points-wise we’re not. I think the guys all know. Some people don’t like to say it because then it’s like, ‘Oh, we have to win.’
“As far as the MLS season goes it’s a must win.”
The Galaxy will need to jump two Western Conference teams in order to get into the final playoff spot. With the Vancouver Whitecaps coming to town next weekend, a win over the Sounders — another conference opponent — can only give them the momentum they’ll need to carry throughout the remainder of the season.
And it’s not just about one win. The Galaxy will need to have their eyes set on winning all their remaining games of the season if there is hope of squeaking into the postseason.
“We must win four games.” striker Ola Kamara said. “This of course to start a positive turn, I think this is a must win. For me just looking at the next five games we need four victories.”
But Kinnear is focused on this first game on Sunday.
“I want to win one game,” he said. “Then we move on.
“I’ll scoreboard watch on Saturday night like everybody else will be doing,” Kinnear continued. “But heading into the game you can only win the one game. One win. Then Sunday night, then hopefully look forward to the second win.”