WASHINGTON — Landon Donovan knew there was something off about his LA Galaxy. Maybe it was the heavy travel, which was more extensive for some than others. Or perhaps it was the unusual 4 p.m. start.
Whatever the reason, the Galaxy came out flat. After surrendering a late equalizer in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with lowly D.C. United, the Galaxy were left wondering about the role fatigue played in those points dropped.
“I’m not exactly sure, but it seemed everyone was a little tired today,” Donovan said. “But that being said, we’re up a goal with eight minutes to go. We still had ourselves in a good position, and we’ve got to finish it off.”
Aside from the typical hardships associated with playing a match three time zones away, four key members of the Galaxy had international obligations to cope with.
For Donovan and Omar Gonzalez, that meant logging 90 minutes for the U.S. national team Sept. 6 in Costa Rica and Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo did the same for Panama with a pair of matches in Central America. And captain Robbie Keane logged the most miles, traveling to Europe for two key World Cup qualifiers.
“It would be natural to be tired when you’re traveling all over — certainly me, traveling all over the world — so at times it was certainly heavy legs,” Keane said. “But as long as you show up, play 90 minutes and try to do your best for the team, that’s all you can do.”
The performances from that quartet were certainly mixed Saturday. Although Donovan set up Keane for the seventh-minute opener, the U.S. veteran exited at halftime with a sprained ankle.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, made a costly error, allowing Chris Pontius to pick his pocket and tie the match 1-1. Although the highly paid center back didn’t want to attribute the mistake to any weariness, he acknowledged the challenge behind transitioning from club to country.
“It’s definitely a shifting of gears,” Gonzalez said. “The international level, playing in qualifiers, it’s definitely something that’s pretty mentally taxing with everything you have to do there preparing to qualify for the World Cup and then coming back.”
The schedule doesn't get any less congested for the Galaxy, who will need to rely on their depth as they host Salvadoran side Metapan in Champions League play Wednesday before welcoming the first-place Seattle Sounders on Saturday.
If the Galaxy want to claim the top seed in the Western Conference, that match against the Sounders — who have a five-point advantage and a game in hand — is an essential must-win.
“It’s a big week for us — a really big week,” Donovan said. “A lot of guys are going to have their number called.”