Tonight, LA Galaxy will try and turn their season around, facing Portland Timbers at The Home Depot Center. They'll have to make a starting lineup with a third of their roster unavailable. Still, no excuses as the Galaxy are in danger of being just the third all time MLS team to miss the playoffs after winning the Cup in the season prior.
They'd join the 2005-06 Galaxy and the 1999-00 DC United as teams which failed to make the playoffs after winning MLS Cup. The 2006 Galaxy finished fifth place in the Western Conference with an 11-15-6 record, 5 points out of a playoff spot. LA are currently last in the Western Conference, eight points out of a playoff spot. With fifth place Colorado losing last night, the Galaxy could narrow the gap to five points with a win tonight. They'd also leapfrog Portland and Dallas in the standings.
Which makes this as close as you can come to a must win match as can happen in June. The month of June was fairly rough on the Timbers last season, as they wen't 0-3-1 and were outscored 9-3. The Galaxy will have to try and scrape together a team with six players out with injury, three players suspended, and one player on international duty. Robbie Keane is MLS' only representative in UEFA Euro 2012, though the Irish were the first team eliminated from the Euros; their first major since the 2002 World Cup.
"It's hectic," said defender Todd Dunivant. "We've all dealt with it before, and it's even more of a challenge now because we need points. It doesn't matter who we put out there; we have to get points. It's kind of the mentality we're working with right now. It's important because we can't keep pushing things under the rug. It's now or never."
The Galaxy will benefit from the return of goalkeeper Josh Saunders having completed his Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program. The program requires a six match break, making this the first match he's been eligible for since taking time off to clear his head. Saunders appeared in a warm up reserve match against the Portland Timbers last week.
With Keane heading Ireland's call, the Galaxy facing a major galactic disturbance, and the Timbers trying to avoid another joyless June there's plenty to play for tonight. This is the second meeting at the Home Depot Center this year for the two clubs. On April 14th, Landon Donovan, David Beckham, and Juninho all scored in response to an early Kris Boyd goal to take three points.