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Josh Saunders takes huge step toward LA Galaxy return

Los Angeles Galaxy v Colorado Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, CO - APRIL 21: Goal keeper Josh Saunders #12 of the Los Angeles Galaxy leaps above the crowd to collect the ball against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on April 21, 2012 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Galaxy defeated the Rapids 2-1. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

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The Galaxy have been without their starting goalkeeper since Josh Saunders entered Major League Soccer’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program at end of April. On Saturday, the man who kept a clean sheet during November’s MLS Cup final returned to the field.

Granted, it was only a MLS Reserves game, but it was an important one. Saunders and team made the short trip up I-5 to Portland, leaving JELD-WEN Field with a 2-1 win over the Timbers. Two early set piece-conversations staked LA to an quick lead, one which was rarely threatened before conceding a late consolation goal.

Scott French has been following this story since it began and has more on last night’s result in Oregon (which includes some potentially terrible news for Leonardo), but there are two things that jump out at me about the story:

  • LA has not kept a clean sheet since they beat Houston to win the 2011 title. Part of that is the absence of Omar Gonzalez, but part is Bruce Arena having lost the top two lines off last year’s goalkeeper depth chart.
  • Whereas MLS’s program was originally (and as it turns out, vaguely) referred to as the substance abuse treatment program, French is now reporting the full title as Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health treatment program (something which, in fairness, I should have known). As it concerns Saunders, the last part is the most important. Saunders previously implied it was stress - not drugs or alcohol - that led him into the program.

You don’t want to speculate too much about such things (these programs have privacy in mind, after all). It’s better to concentrate on what we do know: Josh Saunders has taken another major step toward returning to the league.