CARSON -- Leonardo hadn't made a game appearance in more than a year, and if he's not quite ready to jump back into battle, he deserves some reward for the work he has put in rehabbing a nasty knee injury.
So the Galaxy's Brazilian center back was given a little more than 10 minutes in a closed-door friendly Tuesday against the L.A. Blues, his first action in an actual match since shredding all of his ligaments in his right knee -- anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, the two worst to tear, included -- a year and a week earlier.
“Psychologically, it's great for him,” reserve-team coach Curt Onalfo said after his side held on for a 3-2 victory over the Blues on the Galaxy's training field at Home Depot Center. “He had trained earlier [with the first team], and we wanted to get him in just so, psychologically, [we] can help him progress. It's been a long road, and he's really made progress, so it was good to see him out there for 10 minutes.”
Leonardo, who came on for Tommy Meyer in the 35th minute and played until halftime, is eligible to come off the disabled list for Saturday night's Major League Soccer match against FC Dallas at HDC, but he's still several weeks away, so the club is not ready to make that move.
“We're going to see how he progresses,” Onalfo said. “He's made significant progress, and now the next step is for him to train consistently and start getting more minutes and just more 11-v-11 type stuff. He's doing a good job. ... We want to get him back as quickly as possible. So hopefully in the next month we can incorporate him more and more in the stuff we do as a reserve team so he gets himself prepared to be with the first team.”
Leonardo, who was acquired on loan from Sao Paulo in 2010 and purchased outright before this season began, started the first seven games in central defense for the Galaxy last year. He tore up his knee while challenging Dominic Oduro in the closing minutes of a victory April 17 at Chicago, underwent surgery a week later and required an additional procedure last November after his rehab in Brazil hit a snag.
He returned to training with the first team last month and has several steps to take before he can begin battling A.J. DeLaGarza, David Junior Lopes, Meyer and Andrew Boyens for time in central defense. This appearance was a significant step.
“I think it was a very important 10 minutes,” Leonardo, whose target to return to the first team is “maybe next month,” said in Spanish through an interpreter. “I need more playing time. I need more time on the field to get back. ... It's very different when you're out there 11 on 11 on the full field as opposed to the small-sided games I've been doing.”
He says his knee “needs to be more mechanic, but with time, the more I play, the more rhythm I get, I think that will change. It's psychological.”
How did he do?
“It wasn't enough to make a huge assessment,” Onalfo said. “More it was good to see him out there. You think about it, it's been a long haul from that Chicago game, and that was a brutal injury. For me and I think for everybody else, it was good to see him out there. I think he looked fine, he looked comfortable, and he'll continue to progress.”
WORTH NOTING: Adam Cristman scored a nice goal and the Galaxy coverted two penalty kicks -- the first deserved and converted by Chad Barrett, the second iffier and finished by Hector Jimenez -- to open a 3-0 lead by the 67th minute. Former Chivas USA defender Carlos Borja scored both goals for the Blues to trim the deficit in the final 20 minutes. Matt Fondy, who tallied against the Galaxy in a preseason game, assisted both. ... Galaxy Academy midfielder Raul Mendiola, a regular off the bench for the reserves, saw time in the second half. Jack McBean, a Home Grown forward, saw his first action with one of the Galaxy's top teams since preseason. He missed the first two MLS Reserve League games while with the Galaxy's U-20s and the U.S. U-20s. ... Among those watching: former Galaxy midfielder Paolo Cardozo, who was traded two weeks ago to Chivas USA.
Home Depot Center University Field 1 (Carson)
Galaxy 3, L.A. Blues 2
G -- Adam Cristman (Chad Barrett) 26
G -- Chad Barrett pen. 47
G -- Hector Jimenez pen. 67
B -- Carlos Borja (Matt Fondy) 70
B -- Carlos Borja (Matt Fondy) 86
Galaxy: Bill Gaudette; Bryan Jordan (Dan Keat, 67), Tommy Meyer (Leonardo, 35; Tommy Meyer, 46), Andrew Boyens, Bryan Gaul; Pat Noonan (Raul Mendiola, 76), Kenney Walker (Rafael Garcia, 56), Marcelo Sarvas (Michael Stephens, 46), Kyle Nakazawa (Hector Jimenez, 63); Adam Cristman (Jose Villarreal, 46), Chad Barrett (Jack McBean, 67).
L.A. Blues: Jose Miranda; Matheau Hall, Ladislas Bushiri (Ebrima Jatta, 46), Cory Miller, Shay Spitz; Chad Bond (Irving Garcia, 46), Allan Russell, Carlos Borja; Luis Gonzalez (Omid Shokoufandeh, 46), Maykel Galindo (Matt Fondy, 63), Cheun-Yong Park (Brian Farber, 31; George Davis IV, 46).
Yellow cards: Hall 34, Keat 83.
Referee: Jose Pacheco. Att.: c. 50.