By AVI CREDITOR
WASHINGTON — The Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake both trotted out reserve-laden lineups Saturday night, aiming to preserve fresh legs through a congested schedule while hoping to eke out road results in the thick of the postseason hunt.
The Galaxy gutted their way to a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew on a stoppage-time goal by Chad Barrett. RSL was ambushed by the Dwayne De Rosario show and fell 4-1 at D.C. United. As a result, the Supporters' Shield likely isn't leaving the Home Depot Center.
With a 10-point lead over RSL and four games remaining, the Galaxy are poised to repeat as Major League Soccer's top point-getter and cement a place in the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League, and their chief rivals have all but conceded the distinction.
"I have to take a good look at that and decide whether that's a realistic expectation or goal of ours," Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said following Saturday's loss. "I kind of thought that we could get a positive result tonight by playing fresh players that would be highly motivated to contribute. It doesn't happen, so now we've got to go back to the drawing board and figure whether it's worth still going for."
RSL still has a game in hand on Los Angeles, and the two go head-to-head next Saturday in a marquee matchup that has lost a bit of its luster given the point discrepancy between the two clubs.
Even if RSL were to maximize its game in hand and win Saturday's matchup, it would still need to make up four points on Los Angeles over the course of three games. Given that Los Angeles has lost only three league games all season, that would seem unlikely, although the Galaxy round out the season with road matches at New York and Houston sandwiching a rivalry game with Chivas USA.
"I didn't think we really had a chance (at the Supporters' Shield)," RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said. "I knew we were geting closer, but (the Galaxy) just seem to carry on winning games.
"I dont know, it's pretty far away. We just want to get as close as we can, see if we can hold down second or get in that third spot so we get a little bye."
Seattle isn't totally out of the picture yet, either. Even though Seattle crept within seven points through the same amount of games as Los Angeles with a win over Vancouver Saturday night, it would still take a sizeable collapse for Los Angeles not to retain the Shield. Accomplishing that feat would make the Galaxy the third consecutive team to repeat as Supporters' Shield winner, following D.C. United in 2006-07 and Columbus in 2008-09.
Do you think the race for the Supporters' Shield is over? Can you see either RSL or Seattle catching Los Angeles?
Share your thoughts below.