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Galaxy hosts Real Salt Lake with playoff berth in sight

The Galaxy has certainly been in this situation before.

The same goes for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

Last season, the Galaxy was in playoff contention, but failed to win in the last four games, including the regular-season finale, missing the playoffs on the last day.

“I scored 17 goals last season and where did it get me? At home on my couch watching the playoffs,” Hernandez has said numerous times this season.

Fast forward to today, the Galaxy enters the penultimate game of the season in fifth place, Hernandez is again on 17 goals, but the outcome might be different this time around.

The Galaxy can clinch a playoff berth with a win or draw against Real Salt Lake on Saturday (Spectrum SportsNet, 7:30 p.m.) at Dignity Health Sports Park.

It certainly hasn’t been an easy road to get here.

“It’s meant to be,” Hernandez said. “If it was easy, it would be boring. We want to reach the finals and to be an MLS Cup contender, we had to be a better version of ourselves. We’re learning from our mistakes. I think the work and the attitude have always been there, but we need to learn from our mistakes and the players that came in late in the season, they’ve given us a fresh air, a boost in experience, in technicality and as well in the mental side.”

Hernandez, 34, created an soccer social media firestorm when he confirmed the option year on his contract for 2023 was guaranteed after hitting the thresholds of 12 goals and 60% of minutes played.

“I had a clause 3 plus 1, when I reached 11 goals and 60 percent of the minutes, it automatically renewed,” the Mexican striker said Thursday, erroneously citing 11 goals..

After a roller coaster season, the Galaxy (13-12-7, 46 points) has finally settled on a consistent path. In its past nine games, the Galaxy has a 4-1-4 record, the second-best mark in the Western Conference and third best in Major League Soccer during that stretch.

“I feel like a lot of us have been consistent the last six or eight games,” Galaxy defender Derrick Williams said. “It’s not so much up and down, it’s now we know what we’re going to get from all the players, which is what you need if you want to do well and I think that’s what’s been happening.

“(Galaxy coach) Greg (Vanney) said it a lot this year and even last year: MLS is a different league. A lot of it is momentum and I feel like we’re getting this momentum at the right time. You would rather get the momentum now than at the start of the season. We need to get a few more wins and hopefully we can get one against (Real) Salt Lake and push on.”

Anything other than a win or draw Saturday and the Galaxy would be back in last season’s state of having to get a result on Decision Day, the final game of the regular season when it plays at Houston on Oct. 9.

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