CARSON, Calif. – Both of the LA Galaxy’s recently rested stars, Landon Donovan and David Beckham, were back on the field for a second straight day of training on Tuesday.
Donovan, who was injured late in the 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake on Oct. 6, missed Sunday’s 2-2 draw at San Jose with a left knee bone bruise. Beckham also missed that game, having missed the final two days of training leading up to the game with soreness in his left ankle.
Associate Head Coach Dave Sarachan, who oversaw Tuesday’s training session, said that both were feeling “good” and that the tempo of their training was picking up as well as regaining sharpness in their movement and timing.
“That’s part of the reason I’ve stayed back with this group,” Sarachan said. “To keep them moving along and moving them forward and each day it seems to be getting a little bit better.”
When asked whether the team wanted the two veterans to play against Seattle on Sunday or planned to give them even more rest, Sarachan said that ideally they would be able to go in the regular season finale.
“The hope is that they’ll be available on Sunday against Seattle,” Sarachan said. “Obviously we’ve got the time now to go at a tempo that makes sense for them in terms of their return. So if we can continue to ramp them up this week and get them minutes Sunday, we think that they’ll be in a position to now perform at a high level for 90 minutes.”
The last game of the season could provide a chance for Donovan and Beckham to regain a level of fitness and sharpness ahead of the Knockout Round Match against Vancouver on November 1.
The Galaxy trained with limited numbers on Tuesday with half of the squad boarding a plane bound for El Salvador ahead of Thursday’s CONCACAF Champions League finale against Isidro Metapan. Head coach Bruce Arena and assistant coach/reserve team head coach Curt Onalfo accompanied the squad to El Salvador, leaving Sarachan, Jovan Kirovski and Ian Feuer to lead the LA group.
“It’s a little strange, but it’s alright,” Sarachan said about not traveling to Thursday’s game. “It’s a little odd for me not traveling, but I think we’ve divided it up in a way that we’ve got all our bases covered.”
The group that stayed in LA is important to the Galaxy because it includes players like Donovan, Beckham and Todd Dunivant who are returning from a series of injuries and the coaching staff think “need a few good days” of training to build up to the playoffs.
Defender Sean Franklin, one of the players to stay behind, did not mind the small training session, even preferring it in some ways.
“Sometimes it’s good just to get a group of about 10 guys out here and a good quick, hard session,” the fifth-year defender said. “Today was perfect, it’s always nice to work in small groups and get a little blow as far as running and just [do] some technical stuff.”
After the Champions League side returns from El Salvador on Friday, the team will have just one full training session before Sunday’s match.
Now that they know the Knockout Round is in their future, the Galaxy are not lamenting it but looking at it as an opportunity to gain an advantage. Sarachan believes that if the Galaxy play well on Thursday, Nov. 1, against Vancouver, that momentum could spill over to the first leg of a Conference Semifinal Series against the San Jose Earthquakes, a game that would be played just three days later.
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“Honestly, the way we look at it – and I feel strongly that – we don’t mind,” Sarachan said. “It’s certainly nervy when you have one game and you could be out, but we have a lot of confidence in this group and I think getting that game and getting a rhythm – we do well from a Wednesday, Saturday or Thursday, Sunday rhythm. I think we use this opportunity as an advantage to get a good rhythm and get some momentum.”
The last two times that Champions League play has forced LA to play on short rest, they have taken points from both the midweek and weekend matches. Most recently, on Sept. 22, LA beat Toronto FC, 4-2, at The Home Depot Center four days after playing to a 0-0 draw with the Puerto Rico Islanders on the road.
The playoffs would be a different beast however, since LA has often not needed to use a full first team squad in those midweek CCL games. The last time that LA has played two MLS matches on a quick turnaround was Aug. 12 and 15 when they beat Chivas USA, 4-0, and then traveled to Columbus where they were held to a 1-1 draw by the Crew.