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Galaxy welcome Berhalter back into the mix

One of the LA Galaxy’s most important acquisitions during the 2009 season was Gregg Berhalter. The World Cup and Bundesliga veteran provided instant stability and much-needed leadership along the back line, and the Galaxy rode that all the way to MLS Cup.

Berhalter, however, was not around for the start of the 2010 season, forced to battle and overcome an offseason knee injury. And while the Galaxy did well in his absence – three shutouts in their first three games, all wins – it was just a matter of time before he was needed.

Injury sidelined Brazilian import Leonardo before the Galaxy’s April 17 match against Real Salt Lake, but second-year man A.J. DeLaGarza was able to step into central defense admirably.

But on April 24 against Kansas City it was Berhalter’s turn. With his match fitness finally back, he stepped into the starting lineup against the Wizards, making his 2010 MLS debut in a Galaxy shutout and a scoreless draw.

Just like old times for Berhalter.

“It’s just about when guys are back and when they’re called upon to get the job done,” he said. “It was good to get a shutout but we didn’t win the game, so we’re looking for a better performance on Saturday.”

Berhalter figures to start again in the middle this Saturday against the Philadelphia Union, who will pay a visit to Home Depot Center.

Leonardo is still sidelined with a thigh issue, but Berhalter formed one-fourth of a strong defensive line. With Todd Dunivant and DeLaGarza on the flanks and Omar Gonzalez alongside Berhalter, the unit was a familiar one for the veteran.

Pairing with Gonzalez was a similar scenario, although he said last season’s Rookie of the Year had continued his development.

“We played with that back four consistently last year so it was just normal,” he said. “He’s a lot calmer this year and I think he’s just done well. We look for him as a solid part of this team and that’s what it’s about. That’s what role he has to step into.”

The Galaxy may enter Saturday’s game as favorites – the Union, after all, are 1-3 and winless on the road – but Berhalter is not about to overlook them.

“First of all, I think Philly is a good team. I think they’ve gotten some unlucky results but they’re not bad. It’s going to be a good game for us and we’re going to need all of our concentration to beat them.”

One of the Union’s weaknesses thus far has been their inability to stop opponents from scoring. In each of their four games, the Union has allowed two goals.

The Galaxy failed to score in Saturday’s draw against Kansas City but could find Philadelphia’s defense somewhat welcoming.

“We’ve been on track. Last game was a bit of an anomaly because the pitch was very tight, it was a very tight game and there weren’t many chances for either team,” he said. “I look at the other games, we’ve been scoring two goals and we’ve been on track. We had a little setback not scoring but we’ll be fine.”

Philadelphia could pose some problems. While the team hasn’t been able to stop opponents from scoring, the Union’s attack has scored five goals in their last three games.

And while scoring star Sébastian Le Toux might not play, other players such as Roger Torres and Fred could give the Galaxy’s defense fits.

“They have some quality players, no doubt,” Berhalter said. “I watch them, and they have some exciting players. And they pose a good challenge for us, and we’re going to have to be ready.”