CARSON, Calif. – Brazilian center back Leonardo is no strange to scorn from LA Galaxy fans, but in 2014, the defender made major strides that may see him start 2015 as the principal partner beside Omar Gonzalez.
Free of the injury issues that plagued him during his first four seasons with the club, Leonardo became a regular in Bruce Arena’s lineup as the Brazilian made 24 appearances and 20 starts—each of which were career-highs. Leonardo also added a goal which was his first tally since the 2011 campaign.
Although Leonardo struggled at times—LA’s CONCACAF Champions League second leg against Club Tijuana was a particularly difficult game—the Brazilian defender showed steady improvement over the course of the season. During the last three months of the team’s campaign in particular, Leonardo blossomed into one of the team’s finest defenders as his physicality and passing ability were vital to LA’s postseason campaign. In addition to his ability to shut down opposing offenses, Leonardo also developed a tendency to push forward into the attack to give the team numbers on set pieces.
Next season, the onus will be on the frequently maligned central defender to stake a claim as Bruce Arena’s primary option alongside Omar Gonzalez in the middle of the back four. To do so, he must continue to be the steady defender of the final months of the season and minimize the mistakes that were apparent at the start of the season.
How would you rate Leonardo’s 2014 season? Read my review of the defenders on LAGalaxy.com and rate his season in the poll and comment section below.
Brazilian center back Leonardo is expected to be a “candidate to play” in the Western Conference Championship first leg against Seattle Sounders FC according to LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, but that does not mean that the defender will be in the starting XI come Sunday.
The 26-year-old defender left Galaxy’s 5-0 victory over Real Salt Lake in their Western Conference Semifinal second leg with a right hamstring strain that has prevented him from training with the club since. However, following training on Tuesday, Arena noted that Leonardo and fellow injured defenders Todd Dunivant (groin) and James Riley “are candidates to play” on Sunday.
But despite his initial optimism, Arena did state that the unpredictability of hamstring injuries will continue to make him a doubt until the Brazilian central defender returns to the field.
“There are all different degrees with those things,” said Arena. “Every athlete is different, but hamstrings are hard to figure out until the player goes full tilt which hasn’t happened yet so we don’t know.”
CARSON, Calif. –A right hamstring strain forced Leonardo to make an early exit during the LA Galaxy’s 5-0 victory over Real Salt Lake, but the club’s coaching staff are confident that the Brazilian could be back in time to play a role in their Western Conference Championship clash with Seattle Sounders FC.
Leonardo went down in the 37th minute, forcing third-year defender Tommy Meyer to come on for the remainder of last Sunday's game. Although the injury was severe enough that the Brazilian center back needed to be stretchered off the field, the Galaxy coaching staff believe that the time in between series will allow ample time for Leonardo to return to fitness.
“Two weeks is good for both teams certainly and we would think that both teams are going to be healthy when they meet at StubHub Center,” said Bruce Arena. “He’s working [to get back to full fitness] so we’ll see.”
Added Associate head coach Dave Sarachan, “Two weeks [between games] is a good thing for a guy like him, but we’ll know more as we get through the next few days. I think there is a good chance that he would be back for the series, be it game one or game two.”
With Omar Gonzalez likely absent, Leonardo targeting return to action against New England Revolution
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s 2014 regular season campaign is complete with several players who are enduring stop start seasons, and one of the names on that list is Brazilian center back Leonardo.
The 26-year-old Brazilian has been much maligned among Galaxy fans for his inconsistent play throughout the campaign, which has seen him make nine starts across 11 appearances. A start at the beginning of the year alongside Omar Gonzalez, Leonardo has not started since early June as Tommy Meyer has begun to cement his place along the back four.
However, Leonardo may be given a lifeline back into the starting XI on Wednesday with the Galaxy’s match against the New England Revolution which will be the team’s second match in a two week; five game swing.
“I think it’d be good for the group to rotate players. We want to have a full squad so that we can change if we need to. You don’t want players who are not playing over a long period and you want them to fight for an opportunity,” said Leonardo. “I feel good and Bruce [Arena] has told me that when I have an opportunity that I need to take it. I think that this will be my time to take the opportunity and show what I can do.”
CARSON, Calif. – Injuries and international departures have wreaked havoc on the LA Galaxy’s depth this season, but the team received a bit of good news this week about the status of center back Leonardo.
Following the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers, Time Warner Cable Deportes’ Elmur Souza reported that Leonardo suffered a broken finger on his right hand in the match that would require surgery. Following training on Tuesday, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena revealed that despite the injury, Leonardo is not expected to miss any time.
“He picked up an injury with his finger, but I think that he’s going to be fine,” said Arena. “We expect him to play [against Houston].”
However, Leonardo was slightly more cautious as he admitted that he was still taking his recovery “day by day” with the hopes of starting against the Dynamo.
“I feel okay, but a little bit sore. After 48 hours, I can feel more pain after the surgery, but it’s nothing crazy,” Leonardo told LA Galaxy Insider. “We’ll see how I feel. I trained [on Wednesday], but the problem is that when I’m defending I use a lot of my hands. I just have to be careful and we’ll give it time.”
Thoughts on Leonardo likely keeping his starting role on Saturday against Houston?
Share them below.
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will be without the services of Omar Gonzalez for this Sunday’s match against the Portland Timbers, but with the U.S. international unavailable, head coach Bruce Arena will have options at center back.
The primary option for Arena appears to be a tandem of Kofi Opare and Leonardo, who were able to keep the Colorado Rapids scoreless after Gonzalez was substituted with a left knee injury in Galaxy’s 1-0 defeat last Saturday. However, Arena could also slide in Tommy Meyer, who has enjoyed a strong season with LA Galaxy II as well as 2014 MLS SuperDraft first round draft pick Kyle Venter.
While there are other options for the two central defense positions, Leonardo and Opare seem like the safe bet for the Timbers match, which sits well with the second-year defender.
“I’ve played with him quite a bit in reserve games and in practice. Like myself, Leonardo is a big presence. He’s a more experienced player who is able to guide me and help me with my movements,” said Opare. “We are similar in our physicality and when Leonardo steps on the field he gives me confidence as a player which helps me be more at ease on the field.”
CARSON, Calif. -- LA Galaxy center back Leonardo took plenty of flak his second half defensive error in LA’s draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, but the Brazilian defender believes that he’ll rebound.
Following training, I asked Arena about how Leonardo moves forward and whether he simply needs to have a short memory or should focus on correcting the concentration error. The response from the Galaxy boss was worth noting.
“It has to be a little of both. I’m sure you’ve made mistakes in your life. Fell off your tricycle at some point and had to learn from that. You put the Band-Aid on and you get on with business,” Arena said. “That’s basically what we’re doing. It’s all part of life, but unfortunately for athletes especially defenders or goalkeepers, when they make a mistake, everyone is an expert and has it all figured out. Leo was involved in a lot of plays in that game where he was excellent. However, he did make a crucial error; we learn from it and move on.”
As for Leonardo, the center back is bullish about his ability to recover from performances like the match against the Whitecaps and the Club Tijuana defeat earlier in the year.
“It happens to players,” Leonardo admitted. “I think the thing to understand that when we face more complicated games you learn from your mistakes.”
The LA Galaxy are off this weekend and as a way to recharge their batteries ahead of the long MLS season, the team's Brazilian contigent got into the Samba-spirit after training on Thursday and had a little bit of sing-a-long through the halls of StubHub Center.
Check it out below.