It’s easy to look at the heights the L.A. Galaxy have reached in the past and be surprised by their place in the table this year. The five-time MLS Cup winners possess the second-worst record in the entire league, with just seven wins out of 28 this year. But Atlanta United head coach has been urging his players not to take them lightly.
“The Galaxy are much better than the points they have in the table,” coach Martino told reporters through a translator after training Tuesday. “Now finally they have all their players healthy and available to play, so we have to be careful with them because they’re a much better team than the 27 they have in the table.”
Coach Martino pointed to a string of high-profile injuries and a midseason coaching change as the reason for the Galaxy’s struggles this year. And the players agreed: this is a team with the pieces to challenge anyone.
“You look on their team they have internationals up and down the field,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “They’ve got good players, so we need to make sure we’re ready for an absolute battle. They’re going to come in with a point to prove, trying to get things back on track for them. So it’s going to be important for us to make sure we’re at the right level.”
While the Galaxy sit lower in the table, they haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet. Rookie Julian Gressel was keen to point out that added desperation can be a big motivator.
“We have to be prepared for the best Galaxy of the season, because they’re really fighting for their life,” the German midfielder said. “They’re in a must-win situation every single game from now on, and I also think people want to come to Atlanta and ruin our day in the new stadium a little.”
“I’ve been in their position, and you’re kind of playing for your contract,” added veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. “You’re playing for the next season, you’re playing to show your club that you’re a guy that wants to be around. That’s obviously very dangerous.”
While September has been a match-packed month, head coach Tata Martino said he hasn’t seen many signs of fatigue yet. The players say playing all these matches in front of the Five Stripes faithful has pushed them on.
“The stretch of games is obviously really difficult, but to not have to travel and then to have all those people behind you when you walk on the field, it makes it easier,” Larentowicz said. “If you’re able to jump on the game early, you get all those people behind you, it gives you a bump.”
But the players are fully aware of the challenges a talented Galaxy team pose, and they’re not looking past what they’re expecting to be a real challenge.
“We’re expecting another tough game,” said defender Chris McCann. “There’s no easy games in this league, and we shouldn’t treat them any differently to another team. But we’re at home, we’re confident, and we’ll go out and try to get that win.”
The red, black and gold kick off against the Galaxy at 7 p.m. Wednesday night from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Make sure to save your spot by getting your tickets here. If you can’t attend, tune in on ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes or the Watch ESPN app.