At one point, the Galaxy looked nailed on to be the’ best of the rest’. Too far behind the top three in the West to climb the table, but comfortably ahead of those below them so that they didn’t need to look over their shoulders.
But a run of seven games without a win has seen them slip below the Portland Timbers into fifth, with only a five-point buffer now separating them from rivals LAFC just below the playoff line.
The first three games of this winless run could, perhaps, have been blamed on the absence of Chicharito. The only one of those games in which the Galaxy scored more than once was the 3-3 draw against LAFC, and El Trafico is chaotic at the best of times.
But following his return to action, Chicharito has scored just one goal in four appearances and the Galaxy still haven’t won. In fact, they’ve only scored twice.
And since the start of their winless run, only the Seattle Sounders (6) have scored fewer MLS goals than the Galaxy’s seven, but they’ve played one game less and have had to balance Leagues Cup commitments.
“You have to keep working and keep doing,” manager Greg Vanney said in defence of his team following their latest defeat, 2-0 to bottom-of-the-West Austin FC on Sunday.
He added: “One minute, two minutes in the game we had Javi [Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez”] in behind the back line with a chance… We’ve got to keep doing the things that are creating the chances for us. And at some point, the timing is going to get right. The finish is going to get right.”
The problem is, the Galaxy haven’t been doing much to “keep creating chances”. In fact, they’re tied for 19th in the league for chances created since the start of this seven-game snap. That’s compounded at the other end with LA joint-sixth for goals conceded (14), failing to keep a single clean sheet.
Vanney did admit that “alarm bells” are ringing due to their current form, with the margin for error getting ever smaller.
“I think for sure everybody feels urgency and everybody’s disappointed,” he said. “There’s a sense in the locker room that the guys put out a good shift and it’s about execution. Now, it’s about putting the ball in the back of the net when we get the opportunities and execute around our goal.
“It would be helpful for this group to get a goal, to get ahead and not feel like we have to chase a game, but to have the emotion of where we can protect the goal for once instead of getting behind.
“So, are there alarm bells? For sure. Everybody feels some urgency to obviously shift the momentum to get that result that we need to keep going. But as I said to them, we keep fighting.”
“Yes, of course,” captain Jonathan dos Santos responded when asked if the team was feeling the heat, adding: “We know that every game right now is like a final.”
Luckily for the Galaxy, they face Real Salt Lake and LAFC in the next two games. Against the former, Vanney’s men have already scored three times and taken four points this season. Against the latter, it’s five and four, respectively. Both are direct playoff rivals, making these games proverbial six-pointers.
Dos Santos, at least, remains optimistic.
“It’s difficult to be in this situation,” he said. “For me, it’s hard. I’ve been in this situation many times, but I know I’m not worried about this year because I know that we have a really good team. The team is very tight and we are like a family. So I’m not worried about it. I know that we are going to get out of this situation.”
After such a positive season so far, it’d be a shame for the Galaxy – five-time MLS Cup champions – to fall down at the final hurdle, missing out on the playoffs for the fourth time in five years if they do.