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GALAXY: Titles on the line in finale

10/24/2010

It sure looked like the Galaxy’s game Sunday at Home Depot Center (FSN West, 5 p.m.) against FC Dallas wasn’t going to mean a thing.

Colorado took a 2-0 lead over Real Salt Lake into second-half stoppage Monday night, a result that would hand the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield titles to L.A. and send the locals to Denver for a playoff opener Thursday against the Rapids.

There’s a reason RSL’s Alvaro Saborio is an MVP candidate and the overwhelming favorite for the league’s Newcomer of the Year honor. He scored twice in the dying minutes -- taking advantage of Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens’ error in the 91st minute and converting a penalty kick four minutes later -- to deliver a 2-2 draw to the Utahns, and suddenly Sunday’s encounter means everything.

RSL (15-4-11) pulled even with the Galaxy (17-7-5) on points, and the second tiebreaker -- goal difference -- favors the defending MLS Cup champs.

Here’s where everything stands heading into Major League Soccer’s regular-season finale:

If the Galaxy wins or ties, they’re No. 1 in the West, collect their third Supporters’ Shield (as regular-season champions) and head to Seattle for Sunday’s opener in a tough home-and-home first-round playoff series.

If the Galaxy loses, they finish second to RSL, in the West and Supporters’ Shield standings, and have two more games against FC Dallas, the opener probably next Saturday at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.

What else is worth knowing:

  • Edson Buddle needs a goal to win the Golden Boot. Chris Wondolowski netted his 18th in San Jose’s 4-1 loss at Kansas City, so the Galaxy striker, who has tallied in his past three games, needs one to match “Wondo.” That would give him the trophy -- the first tiebreaker is assists, as Buddle has a 2-1 advantage.

  • FC Dallas faces a tough first-round playoff series no matter what occurs. If the Hoops win, they get the Galaxy. If they lose, it’s Real Salt Lake. They clinched third in the West when Seattle lost Saturday at Houston.

  • FC Dallas’ 19-game unbeaten streak ended in a 2-0 loss last week at Real Salt Lake, and coach Schellas Hyndman wants to start a new one before the playoffs begin. He’s planning to use a first-choice lineup, and he’s able to do so, more or less, for the first time in nearly six weeks. Captain (and former Galaxy midfielder) Daniel Hernandez and central defenders George John and (former Galaxy back) Ugo Ihemelu returned from injury last week -- Ihemelu strained his hamstring and won’t play Sunday -- and (former Galaxy) goalkeeper Kevin Hartman (Palos Verdes/Peninsula HS and UCLA) is expected to be back in the nets for the first time since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee Sept. 16 against New York. Hartman, who was hurt on a post-goal act of stupidity by Red Bulls star Thierry Henry, should be a shoo-in for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.