German Alegria / LA Galaxy

Goalkeeper Saunders ready to step in for Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. – When Donovan Ricketts challenged for a ball near the corner of the penalty area against Club Tijuana on March 2, he wound up in a heap on the ground.

It took a stretcher to get him off the field — and a slow, delicate walk for him to get back to the bench.

Josh Saunders replaced him in the match and played 90 minutes in the Galaxy’s final preseason scrimmage, a 2-1 win over UCLA on Wednesday.

Does that mean Saunders will get the call on Tuesday in Seattle?

“We don’t know what our lineup is on Tuesday,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “[Ricketts] just took a knock. He’ll be fine … It’s not serious. He’s doing well.”

Should the Jamaican international be unfit to play in the 2011 MLS opener, Saunders would likely begin the season in goal. Touted by teammates as talented enough to start for any MLS team, Saunders said he’d be ready to play at Qwest Field on March 15 (9:30 pm ET/6:30 pm PT; ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com).

“It’s still a bit too early,” Saunders said when asked if he figured to get the start in Seattle. “We don’t know but it’s one of those things as a backup where I’m always going to be prepared because that’s my job. Regardless, I’ll be ready whether I play or not.”

Saunders has bailed the Galaxy out before when Ricketts has been injured. At MLS Cup 2009 in Seattle, Ricketts was forced to leave with a broken hand but Saunders stepped in and did an admirable job, helping keep the game within reach only to see the team lose on penalties.

Ricketts played in all but one regular-season game last season, but Saunders took the same approach each game and does not plan to change that this year.

“Even if I know I’m not playing, I go in with the same mentality – like I am playing,” he said. “It’s the same preparation. It’s more of a mental exercise than anything. It’s your preparation mentally for the game, so you don’t want to prepare differently whether you are playing or not. I’m going to go into it thinking it either way.”

Having had the chance to play the distance against UCLA, Saunders said he felt prepared physically for possible starting duty on Tuesday.

“It’s more of a mental exercise than physical, for me at least,” he said. “I could tell I was lagging a little in the last 20 minutes ... but overall it was a good exercise.”

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Join the Galaxy as they Countdown to Kickoff with a series of events and appearances for fans in the community. Galaxy players, staff, Miss LA Galaxy Court members and Galaxy Street Team will be active throughout the week engaging with fans, the public and media in order to thank them for their support and to raise awareness for the start of the 2011 MLS season. For the full schedule and and opportunities to meet the Galaxy players, visit www.lagalaxy.com/caravan.

Take your photo with the 2010 Supporters' Shield and 2009 Western Conference Championship Trophy on Tuesday, March 15 at Ye Olde King's Head before your LA Galaxy face the Seattle Sounders in MLS First Kick 2011 at 6:30 p.m. PT on ESPN/Deportes. Plus, opportunities to win tickets to the Galaxy home opener as well as an autographed jersey! MORE INFO

On Sunday, March 20, the Galaxy will host the New England Revolution in their home opener, presented by Pechanga Resort & Casino, at 5 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. The first 15,000 fans will receive 2011 magnet schedules. Tickets are available for that match, starting at $25. BUY NOW


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