Three games into the 2010 season, the LA Galaxy own the league’s best record, having gone a spotless 3-0.
Defense has been instrumental as the Galaxy have yet to allow a goal. However, Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders has played no direct role in the club’s torrid start, and he's not expected to play against Real Salt Lake on Saturday either.
So, he’ll just go through yet another game with a prime view of all the action. Maybe.
Or maybe he will be called into action against RSL once more. After all, the last time these two clubs met, Saunders played a huge role in the match despite starting out on the bench. At MLS Cup ’09, starting ‘keeper Donovan Ricketts left the game midway through the second half with a hand injury, and Saunders had to go from watching the action up close to being part of the most important game of his career.
“I just figured it was another game,” Saunders said. “Just go in there, be calm and hope for the best. That’s what I had to do.”
The best never materialized. Saunders kept RSL off the scoreboard but the Utah club prevailed in penalty kicks. Saunders did save a pair of spot kicks, though, as it took RSL seven rounds to win.
“Not good enough,” Saunders said when asked about his performance in the match. “One more save, we would have been champions. I felt I did a relatively decent job. I wish I could have made that one more save because it would have made us MLS Cup champions. You’ve got to take that with a grain of salt, build on it and hope for another MLS championship this year.”
Has Saunders since watched highlights of the match?
“I watched it once and I couldn’t watch it again," he admitted. "I got sick to my stomach. It was tough to watch, the whole time I was going through it was so emotional but I only watched it the one time.”
The match served as a positive learning tool, however. The knowledge that he can step into a game the magnitude of MLS Cup should provide Saunders the comfort that if he were to enter another match in the middle of the game that he could respond just fine.
While he is the firm backup, Saunders never mentally takes games off.
“You have to go into every game like you’re playing, even though you’re not starting, and always thinking that you are going to play,” Saunders said. “When [Ricketts] is on the field, just mentally stay with it and be prepared to enter at any moment.”