One of the Los Angeles Galaxy’s mainstays this season had been goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. Before Saturday, the Jamaican international had been one of just three players to play every minute of every game this season.
But when Ricketts came up lame early in the week, Galaxy coaches did not hesitate to turn to Josh Saunders, who picked up a shutout in his first start of the season.
“He’s a good goalkeeper,” Arena said after the Galaxy’s scoreless draw against Toronto on Saturday. “We probably could have played Donovan [on Saturday] but, just to be safe, we wanted to keep him out and that just tells you how much confidence we have in Josh.”
Toronto FC may not have put the most pressure on Los Angeles' goal — Saunders made one save on a ninth-minute shot by Chad Barrett — but Saunders did what was asked of him even if he felt a bit nervous before the match.
“I tried to treat it just like another game,” said the 29-year-old. “It was a little bit of jitters here or there, trying to be smart and not take any risks as much as possible. I made one save early on, which helped me get into the rhythm a little bit more. It’s always tough when you have to make that first save and I was able to do it. That kind of guided me through the rest of the game.”
The Galaxy’s defense has seen its share of changes. First-year player Leonardo started in central defense but injury sidelined him and, after one match with A.J. DeLaGarza in the middle, Gregg Berhalter regained his fitness and has started the last four games. Right back has seen Sean Franklin, DeLaGarza and Bryan Jordan. On the other hand, Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant have been mainstays and have yet to miss one minute on the season.
Not having their regular goalkeeper behind them was not an issue at all, Dunivant said.
“We weren’t even remotely concerned,” Dunivant said. “Donovan’s been great for us all year but Josh is a starting goalkeeper in this league and to have him come in and back up Donovan is no change whatsoever.”
Saunders nearly helped the Galaxy win the 2009 MLS Cup. Ricketts injured his hand early in the second half of last season’s championship match against Real Salt Lake, and Saunders performed admirably in the rest of that half, in extra time and during the penalty-kick shootout. But Ricketts came into the 2010 season as the unquestioned number one keeper, with Saunders behind him on the depth chart.
While Ricketts’ status for Thursday’s game against FC Dallas was not immediately known following the Toronto FC match, Saunders said he is going to go through his usual routines whether he starts on Thursday or not.
“[I’ll] treat it like every other week of training, just go in and train hard,” he said. “That’s all I can control.”