LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact: The loser will be fighting for their playoff lives

Richard Wolowicz

It was only about six weeks ago that these two teams were among the top contenders for the Supporters' Shield.

On talent and payroll alone, the LA Galaxy and Montreal Impact are two of the best teams in MLS. So, their game on Wednesday night at the StubHub Center promises to be an entertaining one.

As recently as a the beginning of September, this also looked to be a match that would play a large part in the Supporters' Shield race. Fast forward about six weeks and suddenly, there's an entirely different kind of intrigue. The winner of this game will be in very good shape to make the playoffs and the loser will be facing the very real possibility of missing out entirely.

The reason is simple: The Galaxy and Impact have combined to go 1-6-3 in their last 10 games combined. The Galaxy showed some signs of snapping out of their funk with last week's resounding 5-0 win over Chivas USA. But the Impact are currently mired in a five-game winless run in which they've claimed just one point.

The cause of these late-season swoons are not as clear. Mount Royal Soccer attempted to tackle this very issue, but didn't come up with anything that was remotely declarative other than suggesting the Impact have become a bit predictable in their attack. There's surely something to that, as the Impact have been shut out four times in their past seven and have scored just three goals in their past five. Compare that to earlier in the season when they were shut out just three times in their first 24 matches and scored 45 goals in their first 26 (1.73 per game).

Why have they become so predictable? That's a much tougher question. In Patrice Bernier (eight assists), Felipe Martins (seven assists) and Justin Mapp (seven assists), the Impact have a trio of complementary playmakers that virtually any MLS team would be overjoyed to have. No other team has more than two players in the top 20 of assists.

A lot of those assists have gone to Marco Di Vaio, who is currently tied for the MLS lead with 19 goals scored. And it's not like he's gone stone cold recently, either. DiVaido has scored twice during the winless run and has eight goals in his past nine.

The problem is that no one else has been carrying much of the load. The only other player to score during the winless run is rookie defender Maxim Tissot.

The Galaxy's problems seem to be at least somewhat tied to international absences. Landon Donovan has missed two of the past five and Robbie Keane, Jaime Penedo and Omar Gonzalez have all missed one. Predictably, the Galaxy lost the one match that all four players were out.

Whatever the reasons, though, each team has some work to do in order to ensure their spots in the postseason. The Galaxy currently sit on 48 points, even with the Colorado Rapids for the No. 4 spot, but just one ahead of the sixth-place San Jose Earthquakes. The Impact are on 46 points, even with the Philadelphia Union and Chicago Fire, and just one ahead of the seventh-place New England Revolution.

A Galaxy loss would leave them likely needing to get at least four points from their final two games against the Earthquakes and the Seattle Sounders. The Impact would probably need four points from their final two against the Union and Toronto FC. Neither team would be in an impossible situation, to be sure, but considering how high these teams were at the start of September, it's a bit shocking that we're even talking about this.

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