CARSON, Calif. — Juninho is back and healthy and ready to go when the LA Galaxy take on Monterrey in Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League semifinal decider (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), and that's not all. Landon Donovan might be in the starting lineup, too.
The Galaxy veteran is looking to build on 30-minute stints in the draw nine days ago at Toronto FC and last week's first-leg loss to Monterrey, and there appears a strong chance that head coach Bruce Arena will send him out at the start and ask for everything he can give for as long as he can go.
“That is sort of going to have to happen at some point, right?” Donovan said after Monday morning's training session at the Home Depot Center. “So at some point I'm going to have to get in and just start playing. Whether it's Wednesday, whether it's Saturday [at FC Dallas], whether it's the following Saturday [at home against Sporting Kansas City], we'll see. But at some point I need to be thrown in and just get my fitness and get through it. We'll see when that is.”
Donovan, who arrived in camp two weeks ago following a nearly four-month leave of absence, likely isn't ready to go a full 90 minutes. Arena says he would “doubt that” Donovan could do so, and the star forward noted that “anyone can go 90,” but being effective over 90 minutes is something else.
“I feel pretty fit, but until you play a full game, you're not back to full fitness,” Donovan said. “If I'm called upon Wednesday, then I'll go as long as I can and give as much as I can and then see what happens.”
Said associate head coach Dave Sarachan: “The idea was to continue to push his minutes. I think he feels good physically, and I think the idea would be to push the minutes in this game. ... We still haven't decided [if Donovan will start], but depending on how he feels over the next 24 to 48 hours, there's a chance that could happen, but we have to monitor that.”
Donovan has looked stronger and sharper with every training session.
“He's getting more and more into it, without a doubt,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “I think he's finding his legs, finding his touch. We knew it was going to take a few weeks and, ultimately, a couple months, but he's quickly coming back into it, and you're already seeing the sharpness start to get back a little bit.”
Juninho, whose departure after an hour was pivotal in Monterrey's 2-1 win Wednesday, trained fully Sunday and Monday and says he's fine. Turns out he was suffering from migraine-like symptoms during the game but he said Monday "everything's fine."
Juninho's availability is crucial for the Galaxy, who generates so much from his and fellow Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas' partnership in central midfield.
“He just adds a dimension that can allow us to be more mobile and create a play that can get us into the attack a little quicker,” Sarachan said.