CARSON, Calif. — When Omar Gonzalez injured his knee in February, LA Galaxy coaches didn't want to estimate or think about when the star defender would be ready to return.
As of late, that picture has become a lot clearer.
The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year (above right) continues training with the Galaxy without restrictions and his chances of returning seem to improve with each passing day.
“Omar’s getting there,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena told reporters on Thursday. “He’s in full training. We’re kind of taking it a day at a time.”
Initially the Galaxy struggled to find some consistency in central defense as the club cycled through different tandems in central defense at the start of the season. The team has recently settled on David Júnior Lopes, who was brought aboard with the season already underway.
LA's attacking trio vs. San Jose's wily defense
Lopes has gone the distance in each of the last four games and has been a key part of LA’s first two shutouts of the season, which came on June 17 against Portland and June 23 against Vancouver.
Perhaps the stability the club now enjoys at central defense is allowing for the Galaxy to take a more cautious approach, but the coaching staff could soon see their standout defender work all the way back from his knee injury.
“We don’t want to rush it too early, but he’s at about five-and-a-half months now [in his recovery process],” Arena said. “He’s getting to a point now to where he can be considered in the near future to be on our roster.”
No clearance for Clarence?
The Galaxy have had a glitzy guest in training this week but despite the speculation and potential excitement, it appears it’s only a visit.
Clarence Seedorf (above left) has been training with the defending MLS Cup champs this week, but when asked about his potential involvement with the club on a full-time basis, Arena all but shut it down.
“He is just in town, looking to train a little bit,” Arena said.
Arena did not deny that he would enjoy bringing in the longtime AC Milan standout aboard.
“I’d be glad to sign him,” he said, “and if [Lionel] Messi walks through town I would do the same.”
While the potential to bring him aboard seems slight, having had him around for the week has not been just a one-sided experience.
“He’s a good player,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan said. “You can tell — even though he’s not fully fit — you can tell he knows how to play the game. It’s been fun for the guys and good for some of the young guys to see how he moves.”
Quick climb could continue
On June 17, the Galaxy began the day on 11 points and in last place in the Western Conference. Seven days later, they went to sleep in fifth place and sitting on 20 points.
A meteoric rise up the table is the consequence of two things: winning three games in one week and having done that against Western Conference rivals.
The Galaxy overtook one of the teams they defeated (Portland) and closed to within six points of another (Vancouver). While the club is not yet ready to take a seat at the head of the table, players have their sights set on the steady climb up the table.
“We still have a long way to go to catch Salt Lake, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “We still have a ways to go and playing so many conference games is going to help us in that way.”
LA will play at San Jose on Saturday (10 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) before playing two Eastern Conference foes (vs Philadelphia on Wednesday, at Chicago on July 8). After that, though, the Galaxy will play six consecutive Western Conference rivals.
“If you win those games you’re jumping a lot of [teams] quickly,” Dunivant said.