Saunders reclaims Galaxy top spot with Ricketts away

Josh Saunders

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CARSON, Calif. — In the days leading up to Friday’s match against D.C. United, LA Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders’ preparation has been no different than any other week.

Save for the absence of the enormous No.1 ‘keeper, it may seem business as usual for the Galaxy goalkeeper.

But the towering Donovan Ricketts is gone, off with Jamaica for the Gold Cup, and Saunders will now be entrusted against D.C. United (11 pm ET, Fox Soccer).

“You have to treat it the same way,” Saunders said. “It’s not like it’s something exceptional or special. It’s just another game for us as far as we’re focusing on DC for now. My approach never really changes when it comes game to game.”

Friday’s match will be Saunders’ fifth start of the season. He last filled in on May 14, when Ricketts was unable to play because of an illness. Saunders helped the Galaxy to a 4-1 win and kicked off the club’s current four-match winning streak.

Saunders didn’t learn until a few hours before kickoff that Ricketts was not going to play in that match. But even knowing his fate a few hours or considerably longer before matches, Saunders said he does not change the way he goes about things.

“When you do that, you’re just putting too much pressure on yourself,” Saunders said. “You’re just adding pressure to a situation where you obviously want to win, so you’re not changing that approach at all.”

Saunders will once again play behind one of the league’s most accomplished back lines. The task, as Saunders sees it, is simple.

“Just stay focused, keep them in tune,” Saunders said. “They’ve been playing so well. It’s one of those things where you want to come in and try and contribute.”

It helps that Saunders is comfortable and familiar with the defenders.

“You create a rhythm with these players, and even though you might not be playing with them every game, it’s still just a rhythm,” he said.

Adding a little color to the DC match will be Saunders’ gloves. The Galaxy will host Military Appreciation Night and as his own way of paying tribute, Saunders will wear specially designed camouflage gloves. Saunders’ grandfather, father and uncle served in the military, so wearing the gloves will be extra special to him.

“It’s massive, it’s emotional,” Saunders said. “It’s one of those things that doesn’t always get talked about. They’re protecting our freedom and this is the greatest country in the world. I’d like to do a little something for them.”