The Los Angeles Galaxy can eliminate arch-rival San Jose from playoff contention with a win on Sunday when the Western Conference foes square off at Stub Hub Center.The events of Saturday's MLS action have set up the Los Angeles Galaxy with an improbable opportunity to jump into first place in the MLS Western Conference with a win on Sunday against the San Jose Earthquakes.
The draw between the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake, coupled with the loss by the Seattle Sounders to FC Dallas, means the Galaxy could jump into first place in the West with a victory against a San Jose side that needs a win in order to keep its own slim playoff hopes alive.
The Earthquakes need a victory to avoid playoff elimination just one season after winning the MLS Supporters Shield as the team with the best record in MLS. They have a 4-0-1 record in their past five matches, so they enter in good form and have a chance of pulling off the upset against a Galaxy side that has won two straight.
Working against San Jose's favor is the fact the Galaxy could welcome the return of injured stars Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez. The Galaxy overcame the absence of those national team regulars last Wednesday, with rookie Kofi Opare starting in place of Gonzalez and scoring the winner in Wednesday's 1-0 victory versus Montreal.
Opare and the Galaxy defense contained Marco DiVaio last Wednesday, but San Jose's tandem of Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart will provide a tougher challenge, which will make Gonzalez's return an important one for the Galaxy defense.
San Jose's defense will have it's own stiff test in trying to contain Robbie Keane, who should be back in the Galaxy starting lineup after coming off the bench in Wednesday's win versus Montreal. Fresh off international duty with Ireland, Keane will have his hands full trying to break through an Earthquakes defense that has allowed just one goal in their past five matches.
Having Donovan back from the ankle injury that forced him to miss the Montreal match should help Keane find some success against San Jose's defense, but the Galaxy attack will also be looking for rookie Gyasi Zardes to continue his recent impressive form.
The Galaxy is still in contention for the Supporters Shield, but will need to win both of its final two regular season matches to have a realistic chance of finishing with the best record in MLS.