The LA Galaxy defense was vital to the club as they lifted consecutive MLS Cup titles, but key to their success was the play of goalkeeper Josh Saunders.
Saunders ended his 2012 season with 33 appearances in MLS regular season and postseason play, making 98 saves and notching ten shutouts. The 31-year-old goalkeeper also had a 1.33 goals against average during the regular season, a mark that was superior to a number of notable ‘keepers including FC Dallas’ Kevin Hartman and Chivas USA’s Dan Kennedy.
“It was a great year for us, it was obviously difficult all around, but we battled through adversity and came out on top,” Saunders told LA Galaxy Insider recently. “We continued the belief that we were going to win battle back and win a championship and we did.
“[The year] had its ups and downs,” added Saunders. “But heck, when you’re holding a trophy at the end of the year; it’s hard to go against that.”
But the year was a trying one at times for Saunders as the club struggled to start the season and then in spring, the goalkeeper enrolled in Major League Soccer's substance abuse and behavioral health program. An absence that ultimately caused Saunders to miss a total of six league matches for the Galaxy.
However, when Saunders returned to action on June 4, the Galaxy shot up the standings. LA went an impressive 18-6-4 in 28 games in regular season and postseason play with Saunders in net, culminating in LA’s second straight MLS Cup championship win over the Houston Dynamo on Dec. 1.
In MLS Cup, Saunders was active; making a pair of fine saves to preserve the Galaxy’s 3-1 victory over Houston. After what was admittedly an up and down year that ended in another championship for LA, Saunders admitted that he’s grown both on and off the field.
“I’ve grown a lot. When you go through tough times then you learn a lot about yourself,” Saunders said. “On the field, we went through some tough times and there were some other outside aspects too. I’ve become more of an adult I feel like and more like a leader in many different ways than just as a soccer player.”
With the season over, the Galaxy must now decide whether or not to bring Saunders back to The Home Depot Center as he is currently out of contract. During his end of the season teleconference last week, LA head coach Bruce Arena told reporters that he expected to speak to Saunders and his representatives shortly.
“We’ll have ongoing discussions with him and his agent to see where he stands,” said Arena. “And we’ll make the decision as we go on.”
Since signing with the Galaxy in 2009—after joining the club on loan from Miami FC in September 2008 –Saunders’ has been with the Galaxy through the club’s rise from one of the lesser teams in the Western Conference to back-to-back MLS Cup championships.
Whether it was his ability to step in for an injured Donovan Ricketts during MLS Cup 2009 or winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012, Saunders has played an important role for the Galaxy during the past four seasons.
“Heck, since I got here, it’s been great,” said Saunders. “We've competed for trophies; we've won the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. It’s been awesome and it’s been very successful for me personally. I love the guys on the team and I love the fact that we’ve won a lot so it’s nice.”
On Sunday, FC Barcelona's Argentine magician Lionel Messi scored his 86th goal of 2012 breaking Gerd Muller's 40-year-old record of most goals scored in a calendar year set in 1972.
Messi has tallied 74 times for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina in 2012 breaking Muller's mark of 72 for Bayern Munich and 13 for West Germany. The diminutive Argentine will have three more opportunities to add to his record total as Barcelona have three more matches left this season before going on Winter break on Dec. 22.
The MLS Analyst Matthew Doyle spotted this video of EVERY goal that Messi scored this year first, but I thought it'd be great to bring it to the Insider audience for those looking for a little morning pick me up.
In an interview with BBC Sport, Queens Park Rangers head coach Harry Redknapp expressed interest in bringing in LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane on a short term loan.
Redknapp has had extensive experience with the Irish forward, who ended his first full season with the Galaxy with 23 goals and 10 assists in all competitions. The QPR boss, who was then the manager of Tottenham Hotspur purchased Keane for 12 million pounds in Feb. 2009 from Liverpool FC, and the Irishman subsequently scored 15 goals in 52 appearances for the North London club before joining the Galaxy in July of 2011. Keane told reporters on Monday that he was not considering an offseason loan at the moment after spending last offseason with English club Aston Villa.
"The MLS market is one that we've got to look at. Robbie's a good shout - he's a good pro," Redknapp told BBC. "He would be the ideal type to have around for sure because he would give us something. I haven't spoken to him yet, but he would be an interesting player."
The article also stated that Redknapp is also interested in Galaxy captain Landon Donovan and New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill, who each have extensive experience in England with Everton, but provided no explicit mention of those players from Redknapp. Based on Donovan's expressed desire to evaluate his future during this offseason, it is unlikely that the Galaxy skipper would head to England on an offseason loan for a third time.
Last month, Redknapp publicly expressed interest in longtime Galaxy midfielder David Beckham who just ended a six-year stint with the club.
Indiana University lifted the College Cup for the eight time in the program's storied history on Sunday with a 1-0 victory over Georgetown at Regions Park in Birmingham, Ala.
The lone goal of the afternoon came in the 63rd minute after a cross from midfielder Patrick Doody was knocked down by a header from star forward Eriq Zavaleta falling perfectly for midfielder Nikita Kotlov who tapped it into an empty net.
Georgetown was noticeably fatigued after needing a penalty kick shootout to beat Maryland to advance to national championship, but Indiana goalkeeper Luis Soffner came up big with two important saves to give the Hoosiers the victory.
The Galaxy are rich with connections to the Hoosiers as center back Tommy Meyer and Galaxy Vice President Chris Klein are Indiana alumni.
After bouncing in and out of the lineup in 2012, Bryan Jordan is hopeful for more in 2013 whether that is with the LA Galaxy or not.
The 27-year-old utility man is one of just four players, who have been with the club since head coach Bruce Arena became the head coach midway through the 2008 season. In 2012, Jordan made 10 appearances in all official competitions, eight of which came in MLS play with the other two coming during the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League.
Jordan remains available for the Re-Entry Draft after not being selected in stage one on Friday. Jordan and the rest of the players available for the Re-Entry Draft will be able to renegotiate their deals until Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. PT when they'll once again be placed into stage two of the Re-Entry Draft, which is historically more active than the first.
“We will see. I’ve been here a number of years and I’ve been a Galaxy fan since the day one, but what is important now is that I definitely want to be playing,” said Jordan. “[Arena has] always known that and he knows that everything time that I get in there, I give my all.”
No matter where he is next season, Jordan intends to spend the offseason fine tuning his game to prepare for 2013.
“I need to continue to be fit,” said Jordan. "I am very confident that if I get an opportunity then I will be able to deliver.”
The LA Galaxy did not make a selection the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft, but the lone selection came from the Chicago Fire who selected D.C. United forward Maicon Santos.
Santos scored seven goals and tallied three assists in 26 regular season appearances for United while adding a single assist during the postseason. The Re-Entry Draft continues on Dec. 14 at noon.
A few more notes to get you through the day.
*On LAGalaxy.com, check out a complete update of the happenings of the LA Galaxy Academy including a status report from last weekend's Winter Showcase
*The Philadelphia Union have been incredibly active in the last few days acquiring Philly fan favorite Sebastien Le Toux from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for allocation money and the rights to Costa Rican midfielder Josue Martinez. A day later, Philadelphia acquired center back Jeff Parke from Seattle Sounders FC for allocation money and a first round pick in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft.
*The Chicago Fire re-signed left back Gonzalo Segares to a multi-year deal.
*Columbus Crew re-signed midfielder Tony Tchani to a new deal
*College Cup begins today at 2 p.m. PT with Maryland taking on Georgetown while at 5 p.m. PT Indiana takes on Creighton. We'll have the updated scores from these matches when they conclude.
The Re-Entry Draft process begins on Friday at noon with the first stage of the process and LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has not eliminated the idea that his may be active in either of the two stages.
The second stage of the process will take place on Dec. 12.
“It’s a possibility,” said Arena. “Historically…for the most part, there are very few selections in Re-Entry one because those contracts have to be optioned. I think that Re-Entry Draft two, I think that gets a little busy.”
A quick glance at the league records shows that Arena is correct as the Galaxy have made just a single selection in stage one of the Re-Entry Draft. In Stage two, however, the Galaxy have been incredibly active in the two seasons since the draft's inception.
In 2010, LA made three selections in stage two, selecting forward Juan Pablo Ángel and then defender Luke Sassano, who was subsquently traded to Sporting Kansas City. A year later, Arena made his first-ever selection in stage one, selecting defender Andrew Boyens before picking up defender Chris Leitch, forward Pat Noonan and goalkeeper Jon Conway in stage two.
Pat Noonan capped off his ninth season in Major League Soccer with his second MLS Cup title and now the veteran forward is evaluating his future.
The 32-year-old's 2012 season was one filled with ups and downs as he rotated in and out of the lineup during the regular season, missing all of June and July due to a right quad strain while making 10 appearances scoring one goal. Noonan's veteran leadership played an important role in all competitions however, as he made three starts in CONCACAF Champions League, six appearances in MLS Reserve League play as well as a single start in the U.S. Open Cup.
“Whether you’re starting, or coming off the bench or not in the 18, it’s still gratifying when you can win a championship,” said Noonan. “It was nice to see everybody contribute from player one to player 30 and stepping in when called upon. It’s nice to see everyone contribute.”
The 32-year-old was placed on the Galaxy's Re-Entry Draft list earlier in the week and will be available for selection in stage one of the Re-Entry Draft which takes place at noon PT on Friday. Noonan came to the Galaxy last season after being selected in stage two of the Re-Entry Draft process.Whether he is selected or not, Noonan is hoping to take time to consider his next step.
“We’ll see. We’ll see how the next few weeks unfold. Over the next couple weeks I’ll decide,” said Noonan. “I’ve played a long time and I’m getting into the years where you start to think about your future outside of soccer, so we’ll see what happens. If playing is the right option, but if not then I’ll think about my family at this point.”
Of the six players made available by the LA Galaxy for the MLS Re-Entry Draft, two players, Brian Perk and Kyle Nakazawa were removed from the list by the 2 p.m. PT roster freeze deadline and are no longer eligible for selection.
Perk had previously told the LA Galaxy Insider that he was optimistic of a return to the Galaxy. The Galaxy's number two goalkeeper made seven starts in all official competitions for LA, going 2-3-2 in net while conceding nine goals with two shutouts—both coming in CONCACAF Champions League. In MLS Reserve League play, Perk made five starts going 1-1-1 record while allowing three goals and earning a single shutout.
Meanwhile, Nakazawa made just five appearances for the Galaxy in 2012 in a season that was riddled with injuries. The 24-year-old midfielder missed the first two games of the season after undergoing a tonsillectomy in late February before injury felled Nakazawa again in June as he suffered a back injury during a Reserve League match on June 12 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The injury, which was described as back spasms, ultimately led to his placement on the Season Ending Injury List on Sept. 6
Andrew Boyens, Pat Noonan, Chad Barrett and Bryan Jordan remain available for selection in Friday's Re-Entry Draft which takes place at noon PT.
There were plenty of articles written on David Beckham's impact on MLS over the last few weeks and last week, I spoke to Chinese state television about the impact that the Galaxy midfielder had on Soccer in the United States.
Check it out below...