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Saturday, June 2, 2012
GALAXY: Saunders plays, Leonardo hurt

By Scott French

Josh Saunders made his return to action, Leonardo departed with an injury and the Galaxy finally held onto a lead, winning for the first time since late April in a most noteworthy MLS Reserve League clash.

Two first-half free kicks were put away by Leonardo and Chad Barrett as the Galaxy claimed a 2-1 victory over the Portland Timbers to vault from fifth to second place in the West Division standings with a 2-1 victory at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland, Ore. It's L.A.'s first win that counts since the April 21 MLS triumph at Colorado and the first of any sort since a reserve friendly three days later against the L.A. Blues, a span of nine games in all.

The biggest news was Saunders' first game appearance since entering Major League Soccer's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health treatment program at the end of April, but that was quickly overshadowed when Leonardo, just back from a devastating knee injury suffered 13 months ago, appeared to reinjure his right knee after a collision in L.A.'s box with Timbers forward Sebastian Rincon.

There was no immediate diagnosis on Leonardo, who appeared anguished while lying on the turf, was comforted by several teammates, and had to be stretchered to the sideline.

The Brazilian center back tore several knee ligaments near the end of an April 2011 MLS game in Chicago, including the anterior cruciate and, worse, the lateral collateral, requiring two surgeries and an extended rehabilitation. He made a brief appearance in the April 24 game against the Blues, played a half in the May 8 Reserve League match with San Jose, was activated from the MLS Disabled List on May 18, made the 18-man game-day rosters (but did not play) for the last three MLS matches, and went the full 90 in Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup loss at the Carolina RailHawks.

He went down just five minutes after giving the Galaxy a quick lead, volleying home a free kick that Kyle Nakazawa curled toward the left post. L.A. got its second goal in the 30th, also on a Nakazawa free kick, from the right edge of the box. Jack McBean, beyond the far post, headed the ball into the goalmouth, and Barrett outleapt Eric Alexander to nod it home.

Alexander scored on a 69th-minute penalty kick for Portland after Rafael Garcia fouled Brent Richards.

Saunders, who remains in the SABH program but returned to training May 21, looked solid in his first action since April 21. He did well on crosses into the box, ably cut off balls meant for Portland's forwards and made all the saves he was supposed to make, none of them particularly difficult.

He leapt to tip over the crossbar a Richards header from a free kick in the 90th minute, his best stop of the night, but Richards was flagged offside on the play.

Saunders, who entered the SABH program April 27 to deal, he said, with extreme stress, hasn't yet been cleared for MLS action. The Galaxy's next MLS match is July 17 against Portland at Home Depot Center.

WORTH NOTING: Academy player Sebastian Velasquez (Los Angeles/Bernstein HS) came on for Leonardo and played 80-plus minutes on the right side of midfield. Garcia moved to right back when Leonardo left, with fellow rookie Tommy Meyer moving from right back into the middle. ... Academy forward/midfielder Mario Rodriguez (North Hollywood/Poly HS), who starred for the U.S. at last year's FIFA U-17 World Cup, made his first Reserve League appearance, subbing in for McBean in the 70th minute. Another Academy player, Santa Monica's Javan Torre (Crossroads HS), also made the trip to Portland but did not play. ... The Galaxy's next Reserve League match in June 12 at Vancouver. MLS RESERVE LEAGUE
Jeld-Wen Field (Portland, Ore.)
Portland Timbers 1, Galaxy 2

LA -- Leonardo (Kyle Nakazawa) 3
LA -- Chad Barrett (Jack McBean, Kyle Nakazawa) 30
P -- Eric Alexander pen. 69

Portland Timbers: Joe Bendik; Cam Vickers, Ryan Kawulok, Andrew Jean-Baptiste, Chris Taylor; Charles Renken (Anthony Macchione, 89), Freddie Braun, Eric Alexander, Brent Richards; Sebastian Rincon, Mike Fucito (Tracy Hasson, 65). Unused subs: Pancho Duenas, Jin Gyu-Won, Brian Rowe.

Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Tommy Meyer, Leonardo (Sebastian Velasquez, 10), David Junior Lopes, Bryan Jordan; Michael Stephens, Rafael Garcia, Kenney Walker, Kyle Nakazawa; Jack McBean (Mario Rodriguez, 70), Chad Barrett (Jose Villarreal, 84). Unused subs: Brian Perk, Javan Torre.

Yellow cards: Jean-Baptiste 52, Jordan 56, Renken 86.

Referee: Paul Nothman. Att.: 6,118.

West Division
1. Vancouver 3-1-1 (7-7 GF-GA) 10 points
2. Galaxy 2-1-1 (6-6) 7
3. Portland 2-3-0 (7-5) 6
4. San Jose 1-1-2 (4-4) 5
5. Chivas USA 1-1-1 (5-4) 4
6. Seattle 1-3-1 (6-9) 4