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Friday, March 16, 2012
GALAXY: Gonzalez back by midsummer?

By Scott French

TORRANCE -- Omar Gonzalez confirms: The target for his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament remains September, and he's in no mood to push things more quickly than he should.

But Tim Leiweke's assertion that the Galaxy's towering center back might be on the field again in three months made him smile.

Omar Gonzalez
Omar Gonzalez, above, could be back in three months if Tim Leiweke's projection is correct.
Leiweke, president and CEO of Galaxy owner Anschutz Entertainment Group, was asked following a news conference Friday announcing the 10-year, $44 million extension of its sponsorship agreement with nutritional supplements company Herbalife whether L.A. needed to find a replacement outside the club for Gonzalez, 23, after the club conceded seven goals in three games while dropping its league opener and crashing out of the CONCACAF Champions League.

“What people have to remember here is it's not like Omar's gone for the whole year ...,” Leiweke said. “Those who think he's gone for the full year are sadly mistaken. This kid will be back, he'll be back soon, and when he does get back, it will change our team.”

Gonzalez, a 6-foot-5 Texan whose dominance in the back has grown through three Major League Soccer campaigns, was the league's Defender of the Year last season. He tore the ACL in his left knee Jan. 5 during his first training session following a short-term loan to German club Nuremberg. He underwent surgery in mid-January; recuperation usually requires seven to nine months.

The Galaxy has struggled in the back without Gonzalez, with mistakes by his replacements -- newcomer Andrew Boyens and rookie Tommy Meyer -- costing L.A. on three of Toronto FC's four goals across two games in the Champions League quarterfinals. The Galaxy is winless in three competitive games this season and lost back-to-back games at Home Depot Center for the first time in five years.

Leiweke called Gonzalez's absence a “very temporary” situation.

“We've got to get through about three months here,” Leiweke said. “And when we get through those three months, he'll be back. … I think we're going to see the kid in the summer.”

A midsummer's dream, to be sure, and Gonzalez isn't counting it out.

“Things are moving along pretty good, and I was running the other day, and it felt great,” Gonzalez said. “But as a cause of that, my knee swelled up. I just have to be smart the way I go about things and just be smart about my recovery and time frame and not rush back into it.

“If [recovery] does take me into late season, then that's when it will have to be, but if not, I would like to be back a lot sooner, and midsummer is looking like a good time frame for me.”

But the plan hasn't changed, he said. September is the aim and any time before that is a bonus.

“That's the way I'm looking at it,” Gonzalez said. “Target date's September and anything before that, I would love for that to happen, and the way I'm feeling now, it could be a possibility. I just have to watch how my knee reacts to certain things and just be smart about it and just realize that this is a long season.

“I know the team will come around and start winning games, and so they're going to be just fine without me, and I can't wait to start helping out the team.”

WORTH NOTING: Italian daily newspaper La Stampa claims David Beckham is trying to lure Surinamese-born Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf to the Galaxy come summer. Seedorf has spent the past decade with AC Milan, and he likely would require a Designated Player slot that L.A. does not possess. … D.C. United, which meets the Galaxy on Sunday afternoon at Home Depot Center, features Yorba Linda's Chris Pontius, a former Servite High School and UC Santa Barbara star. He scored in his pro debut at HDC in March 2009 and told his club's website that playing in Southern California is “special for me. ... It's not necessarily that I try harder or do anything different when I play there, but I do enjoy seeing my family and friends, and I know they enjoy watching me play.” He expects 60 family members and friends to be on hand.