CAROLINA, Puerto Rico – Landon Donovan made it to Puerto Rico for the LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League match, but Islanders fans won't get a chance to see David Beckham or Robbie Keane.
Neither is with the Galaxy for Wednesday night's Group 5 showdown in Bayamón (5 pm PT, Fox Soccer), as they rank among a half-dozen first-choice players head coach Bruce Arena chose to leave at home as LA seeks to improve to 3-0-0 and eliminate the North American Soccer League club from the competition.
Also missing are goalkeeper Josh Saunders, right back Sean Franklin, center back Omar Gonzalez and midfielder Mike Magee, as well as Bryan Jordan, Franklin's primary backup, and David Júnior Lopes, who is nursing an ankle injury.
“We’re just in a week where we’re playing three games,” Arena said Tuesday afternoon in a news conference at the team hotel. His team beat Colorado in MLS play last Friday night and is home this weekend against Toronto FC.
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“We need to turn around quickly and play at home on Saturday,” he added. “We think that you have to have the right kind of balance in your team to be able to play the three games in a short period of time, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Arena used a reserve-heavy team in the Galaxy's home leg against Puerto Rico, a 4-0 victory Aug. 29 at the Home Depot Center, and all 11 starters from that match – plus second-half substitutes Edson Buddle and Marcelo Sarvas – are available. Franklin also came on in the second half of the first meeting.
“We’ll have some different players on the field that we did in the first game,” Arena said. “But we’ll have a mixture of players.”
Donovan appears likely to play as he builds up game fitness after missing nearly a month with a hamstring strain. He says he could go the full 90 minutes if needed.
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“When you’re out awhile, it takes some time to get fit,” he said. “I was a little tired towards the end of last week when I came out, but I think if I had to go 10 or 15 more minutes, then I could have gone through it. The only caveat to that is that this is a different environment. It’s hotter, it’s humid and that could play into it.”
Beckham hasn't trained since sustaining a sprained ankle in the Sept. 1 league victory over Vancouver. Keane, LA's other Designated Player, was suspended for the first game against the Islanders.
Buddle, like Donovan, is looking for minutes after coming back from knee surgery late last month. He made his first appearance in three months against Puerto Rico at the HDC.
Other first-choice players available are center back A.J. DeLaGarza, left back Todd Dunivant, midfielder Juninho and wingers Christian Wilhelmsson and Hector Jimenez. Wilhelmsson, a Swedish national-teamer signed not quite two weeks ago, figures to make his CCL debut. Jimenez could fill Franklin's spot – he's played at right back in MLS Reserve League matches.