Right now, one of the most valuable things the Los Angeles Galaxy possess are their games in hand. Having played just 11 league matches this MLS season due to their involvement in the CONCACAF Champions League, the Galaxy have plenty of chances to gain points, make up ground on their Western Conference rivals and secure playoff position over the final two-thirds of the regular season.
But games in hand don’t mean a thing if they aren’t won, and the Galaxy blew a golden opportunity to gain ground in the West with a 1-1 draw against in-stadium rival Chivas USA Sunday night. Chivas USA started strong, got an early goal from Erick Torres, and despite giving away the lead to Gyasi Zardes‘ equalizer 15 minutes later, the “other” L.A. team was able to hold on for a point and frustrate the Galaxy, who moved to a rather pedestrian 4-3-4 (15 points) on the season.
Any match against Chivas USA, with whom the Galaxy share the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., should be viewed as a required three points for Los Angeles. In this, the 30th regular-season meeting between the clubs, Chivas USA entered having beaten Los Angeles a mere four times. That stat didn’t change Sunday night, but Chivas USA did get a tie from the matchup for just the seventh time. This was one of the easiest chances the Galaxy had to gain ground in the West and while they played much better in the second half, the fact is that Los Angeles blew it.
This was Los Angeles’ last match before MLS shuts down for nearly three weeks for the World Cup Break. The Galaxy enter that break in seventh place in the West, with only the top five in the conference earning playoff berths. The Galaxy are five points behind the Vancouver Whitecaps for fifth in the West. Portland lies sixth on 19 points, but the Timbers still have a game left before the Break against the West’s fourth-place team, FC Dallas (21 points).
So, Los Angeles’ situation could get worse before it gets better. Immediately after the World Cup Break, the Galaxy go to San Jose, then host Portland, Real Salt Lake, and the East’s top team, the New England Revolution. None of those matches would be viewed as likely a win as Sunday’s game against Chivas USA was. Even without Robbie Keane tonight, the Galaxy still had Landon Donovan on the field for 90 minutes and couldn’t capture the three points.
While it’s way too early to worry about Los Angeles missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008 (the Galaxy have only missed the MLS Cup playoffs three times, from 2006-08), throwing away good chances for wins like the one presented Sunday night only make the job tougher for Los Angeles the rest of the way.