It's been a difficult campaign for veteran defender Gregg Berhalter, who sees his playing career nearing its end and wishes he could spend more of the remaining time on the field rather than the trainer's room.
The center back, who will be 38 in August, missed the second half of preseason and most of the first three months with a knee injury and didn't make play in a league game until the final minutes of the Galaxy's victory Saturday night at Colorado.
On Monday, he saw 90 minutes for the third successive MLS Reserve League game and, even better, scored the first goal in a 2-1 triumph over the Vancouver Whitecaps on L.A.'s training field outside Home Depot Center's main stadium, volleying home Paolo Cardozo's 27th-minute feed.
“It's been very disappointing [this year],” Berhalter said afterward. “The knee injury took a lot longer than I thought. The preseason was going great, and it's part of it. At some point, you think, listen, you're getting toward the end and you want it to go like a storybook, you know? But it's not always going to happen. You have to deal with what's given to you, and that's what I'm doing right now.”
Berhalter has been a major contributor to the Galaxy since signing with MLS in 2009 following 15 seasons in Holland, England and Germany. But he was sidelined with an unexplained injury or virus last August and saw only incremental action at the end of the regular season and in the MLS playoffs.
He was added to Bruce Arena's coaching staff during the offseason, so he's had had plenty of work to do while rehabbing his knee and preparing to step in when called upon.
“That's been the positive side, that I was still able to help the team in a certain way, so I'm thankful for that,” he said. “But personally, not being on the field, I've thought about that. I played my first 10 minutes in 18 games [on Saturday]. It's disappointing for me, personally, but you still try to stay positive and work hard, and hopefully things will come.”
Berhalter's presence in the reserve games is critical. The reserve team, and MLS's league, exists to provide games for young players trying to work their way into the first team, for those returning from injury and for players who are on the bench in the MLS games.
Berhalter is able to coach on the field, and it's not just his fellow center backs -- Kyle Davies and Dustin McCarty against Vancouver -- who will benefit.
“It's a great vantage point to actually apply your coaching,” Berhalter said, “because you're in the heat of the battle with the guys, and you're doing it alongside them. So you can see little things that maybe when you're on the sidelines you don't notice.”
He's discovered coaching agrees with him and enjoys it “more than I hoped. I had no idea how it was going to go. I didn't know how the [altered] relationship with Bruce was going to be. But it's been more than I imagined.”
WORTH NOTING: The Galaxy is 1-4-0 in MLS Reserve League play, vaulting past Vancouver (0-2-1) and out of the Western Division cellar. … Cardozo assisted both Galaxy goals, also feeding Adam Cristman's 73rd-minute strike. … Defender Frankie Hejduk was a late scratch with what reserve-team coach Curt Onalfo called “a knock” to an ankle. McCarty stepped in at right back, then moved into central defense early in the second half. … Davies was back in the starting lineup. He suffered an ankle injury in his L.A. debut two weeks ago in San Jose and came off the bench last week in Seattle. … Chad Barrett played 16 minutes on the right flank after coming on in the second half. He moved up top when Cardozo exited in the 73rd. … Omar Salgado, 17, the No. 1 overall selection in January's draft, scored Vancouver's goal in the 76th. He was impressive throughout.
Home Depot Center University FIeld 1 (Carson)
Galaxy 2, Vancouver Whitecaps 1
LA -- Gregg Berhalter (Paolo Cardozo) 27
LA -- Adam Cristman (Paolo Cardozo) 73
V -- Omar Salgado (Michael Nanchoff) 76
Galaxy: Brian Perk; Dustin McCarty, Kyle Davies (Chad Barrett, 57), Gregg Berhalter, Ryan Thomas; Bryan Jordan, Dan Keat, Jovan Kirovski, Hector Jimenez; Paolo Cardozo (Michael Stephens, 73), Adam Cristman. Unused subs: Grady Howe, Vince Paldino, Riley Wolff.
Vancouver Whitecaps: Brian Sylvestre; Bilal Duckett, Mouloud Akloul, Greg Janicki (Blake Wagner, 60), Alexandre Morfaw (Phillippe Davies, 77); Michael Nanchoff, Nizar Khalfan, Peter Vagenas, Russell Teilbert (Cian Hughton, 84); Long Tan (Wes Knight, 52), Omar Salgado.
Yellow card: Keat 63, Stephens 78. Referee: Daniel Radford.