Los Angeles Galaxy starting goalkeeper Josh Saunders has been cleared by MLS to return to the team. Saunders has missed Galaxy matches since late April while completing the league's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program.
Saunders trained with his Galaxy teammates on June 7 at the Home Depot Center. He also played the full 90 minutes in a 2-1 Reserve League win over the Portland Timbers on June 2. On the season, Saunders is 3-3-0 with a 1.67 goals against average. He's made 16 saves (2.67 per 90 minutes, 64% save percentage) and made the first penalty kick save in his MLS career against Colorado to preserve a 2-1 win. The victory over the Rapids was the last MLS match he appeared in before entering the program.
Saunders was instrumental to our side's success last season in winning the MLS Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup. He was 12-2-4 with eight shutouts and he allowed only 0.93 goals per 90 minutes. In the MLS playoffs, he was even better going 4-0-0 with two shutouts while giving up 0.50 goals per 90 minutes. Saunders is glad to be back with the team and could make his next start on June 17 against the Portland Timbers, our side's first game after the MLS international break.
I'm thrilled Saunders is back because he will bring some stability that the Galaxy have been missing. L.A. has split seven games in between Brian Perk and Bill Gaudette when Saunders was unavailable. Neither Perk nor Gaudette got a win while making 1.57 saves per 90 minutes. Perk and Gaudette also allowed 11 goals (1.57 goals against average) in their matches.
Saunders is eight saves away from 100 for his career and two wins away from his 20th MLS victory. With four league matches in June, Saunders should be able to get to both milestones before the month ends. He is also one of six Galaxy players nominated for the 2012 MLS All-Star ballot. The Galaxy are long overdue to get their first shutout of the season. It would be great to a record a shutout in Saunders' return.
More from Patrick Johnston:
"Galaxy return to training after short break", LAGalaxy.com
Stats from LAGalaxy.com