CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy took a big step forward over a marvelous month-and-a-half – up to last weekend's crushing loss at Seattle – despite missing more than half of their roster at one point or another, primarily due to a spate of injuries.
Nine players missed at least four games (six missed at least nine) with a variety of ailments. On that list were at least four first-choice players – Omar Gonzalez, Edson Buddle (above left), Todd Dunivant and Mike Magee – and a good deal of depth on all three lines.
Add in suspensions and Olympic and Euro 2012 duty, and 16 players were forced out of at least one match during a 7-2-1 run that took the Galaxy from the Western Conference cellar into playoff-qualification territory.
And now, finally, they're getting healthy.
Gonzalez (torn ACL), the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, has started four straight games, including friendlies with Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid. Magee (shin hematoma) has played in the last four. Dunivant (calf hematoma) went the full 90 in Tuesday's MLS Reserve League victory over Chivas USA and figures to return to the field for Sunday's SuperClasico (11 pm ET, ESPN2).
Forward Pat Noonan (quadriceps strain) saw the field in those friendlies, as did defender Andrew Boyens (sports hernia), who hadn't played since a reserve game in early May.
Boyens went the full 90 in Tuesday's reserve game, and second-year midfielder/defender Dan Keat, who underwent meniscus surgery at the end of May, was a second-half substitute. Buddle, who had meniscus surgery on June 4, was on the initial game roster Tuesday but was scratched, assistant coach Curt Onalfo said, because he “had a little bit of swelling.”
Boyens, who impressed against Real Madrid, called the reserve appearance “an important step” and said he's ready for “when I get my chance.” Keat, whose injury cost him a shot at the Olympics with New Zealand, says he, too, is ready to contribute.
“[It has] just been a long, frustrating couple of months,” Keat said. “We keep working at making my [right] knee stronger, and it's getting to where I can get back and compete for spots. Hopefully, I can contribute in the second half of the season.”
Keat and Buddle rehabilitated their knees together, on nearly parallel paths. That made the time away a little easier.
“[Our surgeries] were four days apart, and at different stages, we've been ahead of each other,” Keat said. “It's been frustrating, because a couple of times it's two steps forward, one step back. When you rely on your body to make a living, you've got to take those hits, I suppose.”
Buddle is close to being first-team ready, and his omission Tuesday was “to be on the safe side,” Onalfo said. “No reason to cause issues there.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.