Back from injury, LA Galaxy's Leonardo turns in complete performance, including first goal of 2014
CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan's magical return to the LA Galaxy received all of the attention in Sunday's 4-1 romp over the Philadelphia Union, but it was hardly the only positive storyline for the home side.
Leonardo enjoyed a fine return from finger surgery, which moored him to the bench for the previous two games, contributing a goal at the start and fine defensive work throughout at LA prevented Philly from creating chances, Maurice Edu's late penalty kick aside.
“I thought he performed quite well today, and, obviously, the goal was a big part of our success,” head coach Bruce Arena said afterward. “He had surgery two weeks ago -- he had a compound fracture -- and we really brought him along slowly over the last two weeks, and he was in a good frame of mind to play today, and I think he's thrilled with his performance.”
There was certainly enough to be thrilled about.
He was outstanding on the second-minute goal, drifting off Union defender Amobi Okugo's back to find space at the top of the 6-yard box that made heading home Donovan's free kick a simple task. And he teamed with Tommy Meyer in the center, playing a big role as the Galaxy tamed Philadelphia's attack.
“I feel good. It's a great feeling, because I'm back,” Leonardo, a Brazilian defender who has advanced the past season and a half after missing nearly two full seasons with knee problems, said through a translator. “And two weeks after [my surgery], I score after three years against the team I first scored against. It's a great feeling.”
“It's kind of like I scored my goal back in 2011,” Leonardo said. “I stayed on the offside line, and we practice those plays every week. Thankfully, Landon was able to get me a good ball, and I was able to head it home.”
More edifying was his performance at the back. Leonardo has been inconsistent, with periodic gaffes filtered through otherwise solid performances. Arena earlier this season said his injury history contributed.
“He's been a little bit up and down,” Arena said before Leonardo's finger injury. “He needs to be more consistent. He's played real well in segments of games, in games, and not so well in others. So he's got to get a little but more consistency, and I think that'll come with playing on a more consistent basis.
“Over the last couple of years, he's been in and out of the lineup or in and out of training because of injuries, so I think one real good sign is he's been with us from day one in preseason, been healthy and that's a positive.”
He suffered the injury on his left middle finger during LA's 1-1 tie May 11 at Portland, when it was raked by a ball kicked at point-blank range by Pa Modou Kah. Leonardo played on for 50 minutes with the finger disfigured and swelling.
With the first goal under Leonardo's belt, forward Robbie Keane -- who had a goal and two assists on the night -- now expects more.
“It's important for everybody to pitch in goals,” Keane said. “[Saturday] was the case, so for him it was great. Most of the center halves should be scoring three or four goals in the season, and that was his first one, so he has got three more to go.”