Commerce City, CO – Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena put some of the blame on himself for the team's poor start this season, saying you "can attribute the poor start to bad coaching."
Since the defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy started 3-8-2 and were at the foot of the Western Conference, they have resembled a much different team.
Los Angeles (15-11-4) has gone 12-3-2 over its last 17 matches, and clinched a postseason berth last weekend with a 4-2 win over Toronto FC.
"I just think we're playing better," Arena said. "I think players understand their responsibilities. Maybe you can attribute the poor start to bad coaching and maybe we got them, helped get them turned around."
Unbeaten in six straight - five wins - Los Angeles enters the final stretch of the regular season as one of the most feared teams in the league, and will try to continue to late-season surge Sunday at the Colorado Rapids.
In addition to having as much, or more, offensive power than any squad in MLS, the Galaxy have posted five shutouts in their last seven matches with the back line anchored by Omar Gonzalez rounding into shape.
Juninho and Robbie Keane both scored twice in the win over Toronto last week - and David Beckham could return from injury this week at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Beckham injured his ankle Sept. 1 in a 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the club continued to roll without him, securing a 2-0 win over Colorado and the win over TFC.
But with Beckham, L.A. will be even more dangerous. At 37, Beckham has emerged as a goal-scoring threat this season with seven goals, his best in the league, and nine assists.
In all competitions since mid-June, Beckham has six goals and six assists. Now Arena has the problem of getting his team back in sync with Beckham, but that is a luxury.
"It's good to see him back on the field," Arena said.
L.A. is tied with Real Salt Lake for second in the West and, with the San Jose Earthquakes 11 points clear, that is the best it can hope to finish. Still, it is a place Arena would have gladly taken a few months ago.
"In May this would have been an unlikely scenario, so it's been a terrific run of probably close to 20 games," Arena said.
Los Angeles has not lost in Colorado in its last four games, posting four wins in that span. Galaxy attacker Landon Donovan admitted L.A. will not overlook the Rapids this week.
"Colorado game is a game we're playing a team at their home field with nothing to lose, so we got to make sure we're ready next week to play and try to get three points there," Donovan said.
Colorado (9-18-3) is still in the playoff hunt, as it sits eight points out of fifth place in the West. But with just one win in their last seven, the Rapids have almost no chance to overturn the deficit over the final few matches.
As a spoiler, the 2010 MLS Cup champions could still play a large role, as the Rapids play San Jose, which is battling for the top record in the league, and the Houston Dynamo, who are battling for a playoff spot in the East.