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Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Josh Saunders explains absence

By Scott French
Special to

CARSON, Calif. -- Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who has been in Major League Soccer's substance-abuse treatment program since late April, returned this week to training, saying he is "happy to be in the state that I'm in now."

Saunders, 31, said Tuesday that neither drugs nor alcohol was involved in his entrance into MLS's substance abuse and behavioral program.

Josh Saunders
Galaxy keeper Josh Saunders is back training, but cannot play until cleared by doctors.

"I was under some stress. I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. I just needed to step away," he said. "There were, obviously, a lot of stories floating around. It's unfortunate people were taking it and blowing it out of proportion before they got a chance to talk to me.

"(I) ... had some family issues, wanted to deal with them on my own. We're humans. We have a life outside of soccer, and people forget that. I'm just happy to be in the state that I'm in now."

Saunders, who on Monday trained for the first time since entering the program April 27, remains in the treatment program. He will not be eligible to play until he has been cleared by his doctors, and there is no timeline for that.

"I have no control of (when Saunders can play) ... " Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. "That is out of my control. I'm not the person who has any authority in this manner."

Saunders said he is "still doing some classes and stuff" and that he has "no idea" when he'll be able to play again.

"There's still unfinished business here," he said. "I want to be back soon, but I want it to be under the best of terms."

The Galaxy play Wednesday night against San Jose at Home Depot Center and Sunday at Houston, then have two weekends off from MLS duty.

They begin their U.S. Open Cup campaign May 29, and would play another cup game a week later if victorious.

Saunders had seen action in just 10 games in six MLS seasons before last year, when international duty and a broken arm sidelined Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

Saunders started 18 regular-season games, all four playoff matches and all six games in the CONCACAF Champions League's group stage, remaining in the lineup when Ricketts returned to health. Ricketts was traded to expansion club Montreal in late November.

Saunders had played every minute in the Galaxy's first eight games this season, including both legs of a Champions League quarterfinal loss to Toronto FC.

He was the hero in his last appearance, an April 21 triumph at Colorado, saving a penalty kick in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 decision. The Galaxy are winless in the five games that have followed.

Arena said Saunders "looks great, sounds great. We're pleased he's well on the road to recovery ... I think this program has been real good for him."