Friday Notebook

Kovalenko readying for a return to the lineup

Dema Kovalenko

Photo Credit: 
German Alegria

The
competitiveness and determination never left him, but the smile is back for the
LA Galaxy's Dema Kovalenko.

It was over
two months ago, during pregame warmups before the third game of the season
against the Houston Dynamo, that the veteran midfielder suffered a pulled right
hamstring. The forced inactivity had been disappointing, to say the least, for
him but now he is back in training and ready to go.

Almost.

Kovalenko,
who turns 33 in August, said the hamstring still is not 100 percent, but he
said he’s close. He couldn't do any training at all as recently as three weeks
ago.

"It's
nice to be back with the team again," he said. "Anyway I can get back
and play. I'm just happy to be back."

Whether or
not he regains his starting spot remains to be seen.

Kovalenko
admitted he wouldn't be surprised if head coach Bruce
Arena makes no changes to a lineup that has produced a 10-1-2
record, the best in MLS.

"I
understand that," he said. "Whenever I come back, wherever Bruce uses
me, I'm going to fight and compete like I always do. I'm going to try and get
my spot, but the guys are doing well and we're winning.

"I
just have to wait for my chance and I understand that. If I have to come off
the bench and help the guys, that's fine, too. I don't like it and Bruce knows
that. I've missed a long time, and however they use me I'll accept it. It's not
a problem."

Kovalenko
said dealing with injuries doesn't get any easier, despite this being his 12th
season in MLS.

"It
gets harder," he said. "Especially when you want to play, because you
don't know how much time you have left. I'm going to be 33 this year, and it
kills me when I watch games and I can't help. But the team is doing well.

"If I
was on the coaching staff, I wouldn’t make that many changes. I’d stick with
the same guys that got us here. But as Bruce has said, it's a long season and
we need everybody. We have a lot of competitions coming up and the guys
understand that. We're not selfish; we're in this for the team and hopefully we
all stay healthy."

FULL PLATE

Just how
busy is the Galaxy's upcoming schedule?

They return
to regular season action on Saturday, June 26 at Toronto FC. Three days later
is a Third Round game in the U.S. Open Cup against either AC St. Louis or NSC
Minnesota Stars of the USSF Division 2 Pro League. Then it's back to the MLS
schedule for the club’s annual July 4 game, this time against the Seattle
Sounders FC, before a potential Open Cup Quarterfinal on July 6 or 7.

League
games on July 10, July 18 (both of which are on the East Coast against New
England and D.C. United) and a July 22 home date against San Jose precede the
first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Preliminary Round game against the
Puerto Rico Islanders at The Home Depot Center, which rounds out the month on
July 27.

The schedule
does not let up at the start of August either, with a home game against Chicago on Aug. 1, a trip to San Juan,
Puerto Rico for the second leg of their series
with the Islanders on Aug. 4 and, finally, a much-anticipated international
friendly against Inter Milan on Aug. 7.

All
totaled, that would leave the club playing a total of 11 games in a total of 43
days.

Galaxy head
coach Bruce Arena said he isn't
dreading this time of the season, but he is concerned with the health of his
team, which appears to be much-improved with the recent returns of Kovalenko,
midfielder Eddie Lewis, forward Alan Gordon and defender Leonardo.

Arena won't
say if he's looking forward to the busy schedule, though.

"I'm
not sure I know the answer to that yet," he said. "I'll let you know
once we get into it."

REFRESHED

Thursday's
training session marked the returns of midfielder Chris Birchall and goalkeeper
Donovan Ricketts, who were given permission to spend a little more time with their
families in England and Jamaica, respectively.

"I did
a bit of work back home, so I didn't have the entire break off," Birchall
said. "It was tough today, but it's always tough the first day back.
You're trying to get your legs back from a long flight. I'm refreshed and
thankful for the break.”

Ricketts
said he appreciated the time off, too. Any kind of break in the routine is fine
by him.

"For
me, a break is always good," he said with a grin. "The middle, start,
the end ... I don't care. I'm always happy for a break."