The Los Angeles Galaxy are headed to the postseason for the first time in three seasons, but a top-four finish and first-round playoff game would be nice.
Looking to secure both, the Galaxy aim to bounce back from a stunning home defeat when they complete the regular season against the host Houston Dynamo on Sunday.
A three-match winning streak from Sept. 15-25 helped Los Angeles (16-14-3) punch its ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. However, that run ended with a shocking 4-3 loss to Vancouver at home last Sunday. Zlatan Ibrahimović recorded a goal and an assist in a game the Galaxy never led and ultimately lost after conceding a 93rd-minute goal to Michaell Chirinos.
While the result was somewhat shocking considering the way the home side has played of late and the fact the Whitecaps will finish last in the Western Conference, L.A. still sits fourth in the West - one point ahead of fifth-place Real Salt Lake. That's important for the Galaxy, who would claim a first-round playoff home game if they remain among the top four teams in the conference come the end of Decision Day.
However, they'll need to pick things back up on the back-end after conceding as many goals last weekend as they did during the three-game winning streak.
"Very disappointing, this is not what we wanted," Ibrahimović told the Galaxy's official website.
"We all have responsibility on the defending part, so if we don't do good it is everybody who doesn't do good. We have to do better as a team."
On an individual front, Ibrahimović has 29 goals - two back of Los Angeles FC's Carlos Vela in the race for the MLS Golden Boot as the league's top scorer. However, that's something Ibrahimović claims not to be a priority.
"I don't even know how it looks like," he said. "I'm just trying to help my team win."
Ibrahimović scored off a penalty kick in the 31st minute of a 2-1 home win over Houston in April. However, the Galaxy needed an 88th-minute goal from Diego Polenta to claim the full three points.
L.A. once again concludes the regular season at Houston, where the Dynamo officially ended the visitors' playoff hopes with a 3-2 victory last season. Mauro Manotas recorded a second-half brace in that contest for Houston, and takes a team-leading 13 goals into this match.
However, Manotas has failed to score in his last three matches for the Dynamo (11-18-4), who look to avoid ending their disappointing season with a third consecutive defeat. The Dynamo, though, are amid a 2-0-1 home stretch and should be playing as part of a lively atmosphere for the final game of DaMarcus Beasley's stellar career.
The 37-year-old Beasley is finishing up his 20th season before riding off into retirement.
"I just want to end how I began," said Beasley, who recorded 126 caps for the U.S. national team during his career. "That's it. Just playing, to win a football match, respect the game, play the game in the right way."