CARSON, Calif. - When one of the LA Galaxy's most important
players returned after a prolonged absence, the stars
Struggling defensively all season, the Galaxy finally
picked up a shutout on Sunday when the club knocked off
Portland 1-0 at The Home Depot Center. That it coincided
with Josh Saunders' return was no coincidence, according to
"Consistent, good goalkeeping is a huge plus and a huge
reason why you get shutouts, defender Todd Dunivant said.
"For a lot of reasons, we haven't got shutouts this year,
but having him back and having him play at the level he did
[Sunday] was a big reason we got the zero.
Saunders last played for LA on April 21, when he led the
club to a 2-1 victory at Colorado. Just before the Galaxy's
April 28 match against FC Dallas, Saunders took a leave of
absence for personal reasons and did not play in any of the
team's following seven league matches.
But Saunders returned over the break and promptly stepped
into the Galaxy goal. Since his return, the LA netminder
has given teammates a lift and reminded them why he's an
"Josh was great," captain Landon Donovan said. "I
think his attitude since he's been back has been great. I
guess everyone would say the same thing: It looks like he
has some clarity in life. He looks humble, he looks calm. I
thought he was excellent.
While he was away, Sauders teammates and coaches stood by
him. And although everyone seemed to welcome him back with
open arms, if it had taken Saunders longer to come back,
the team would have stood by that as well.
"He's a very likable person," Galaxy manager Bruce
Arena said. "Obviously, he dealt with some difficult
personal experiences, but the team supported him all the
way and he was really happy to be back. To have an
experienced goalkeeper in the goal certainly helps, and he
made a couple saves in the first half that were big. Just
having his experience I think helps the entire group."
Saunders was tested twice early on against the Timbers, and
twice he responded. He turned away Kris Boyd with his face
in the opening moments of the match then dove to knock a
long-range shot from Boyd away with an outstretched arm.
Many pointed to their goalkeeper's return as the
biggest difference vs. the Timbers, but Saunders was not
about take all the credit for the team's first victory
since April 21 and first clean sheet in 17 games across all
"It was just one of those things where we all focused on
the task at hand, Saunders said. "If I was there to boost
some other people's confidence, then that's great, but I
feel like at the same time it was just another game where
we were focused to win.