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Galaxy faces two almost-certain must-wins to earn good playoff spot

It will meet San Jose on Sunday, then Seattle to end regular season and have shot at a bye into conference semifinals. With new format, if it finishes fourth in standings, it must win a play-in game.

October 20, 2012|By Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
  • The Galaxy will have a shot at a bye into the conference semifinals.
The Galaxy will have a shot at a bye into the conference semifinals. (Trevor Brown / Getty Images )

Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena says he doesn't pay much attention to the Major League Soccer standings, a story even his players don't fully believe.

"I'm not going to call him a liar," defender Todd Dunivant said playfully. "But we all certainly keep an eye on it. It's hard not to at this stage of the season … where every game matters."

Few games this season have mattered as much as the one the Galaxy plays Sunday in Santa Clara, where it will meet the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes (Galavision, Time Warner Cable, 4 p.m.). Although the Galaxy has already qualified for the MLS playoffs, it almost certainly needs wins in its final two regular-season matches against San Jose and Seattle to have a chance at earning a bye into the Western Conference semifinals.

Anything less and the Galaxy probably would finish fourth in the standings, which, under the league's new playoff format, would force it to win a play-in game with the conference's fifth-place team next week to reach the semifinals.

"It's in our hands. Two tough games with two teams that are up there," striker Robbie Keane said. "But it's in our own hands."

Making the task tougher, though, is the fact the Galaxy will be entering its stretch drive short-handed. Key defender A.J. DeLaGarza remains sidelined with a knee sprain, captain Landon Donovan is out with a knee bruise and midfielder David Beckham, who didn't train with the team Friday, is doubtful because of a variety of aches and pains.

"Nothing in particular," Arena said of Beckham's maladies. "He's dealing with 30 years of football."

Edson Buddle could start in Donovan's place, while Mike Magee and Christian Wilhelmsson are likely options in the midfield.

"We have just a couple of weeks to get our team ready," Arena said. "The comforting part is we're qualified for the playoffs. We can just try to get ourselves as healthy as possible."

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