Neither of the LA Galaxy's ailing Designated Players are anywhere near 100 percent, but they expect to be on the field for Sunday evening's California Clasico against the San Jose Earthquakes at the StubHub Center (9 pm ET; ESPN). It’s a match in which the two-time defending MLS Cup champions can clinch a playoff berth and, they hope, make a move for the Supporters' Shield.
“I hope [I'll be playing]. We'll see,” Donovan said following LA's training session Friday morning at StubHub. “The ankle's not great, but we're going to try to play, and this is the time of year where you've just got to get through it.
“You know, I've been out long enough. I miss playing with these guys. I want to do whatever I can to help contribute, and I know what this means this time of year, so I'm going to try to play.”
Donovan sprained the ankle on Sept. 14 at D.C. United, missed three games, returned prematurely in Portland at the end of September, then scored twice in the Oct. 6 romp over Chivas USA. After playing the first half for the USMNT in their World Cup qualifying victory a week ago over Jamaica, he returned to the Galaxy and sat out Wednesday's victory over Montreal.
“It's a little worse than I think we thought it was initially,” he said.
“Realistically, I've been told that I need probably up to six weeks of rest to let it go away, and so that's obviously not going to happen,” he added. “Even getting four or five days [off] helps a little bit. It's still going to be painful, but it's part of it and just cross your fingers that you don't do further damage.”
Gonzalez missed the final two USMNT qualifiers and Wednesday's Galaxy game with an adductor strain, an injury that dates to last year's MLS Cup final.
“I'm feeling better. I think this week and a half to rest has been good for me,” Gonzalez said. “I'm still not feeling amazing, but that doesn't matter. At this point of the year, you just have to grind it out, and I'll be ready for Saturday.”
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The Galaxy (15-11-6) need just a draw Sunday to clinch a postseason berth, but a victory helps them toward a top-three seed in the Western Conference and keeps them alive in the Supporters' Shield race. They're four points off the lead with two games to play.
“This is the time of year you sort of have to put it on the line and go for it because there's, realistically I guess, a maximum of seven games left, maybe less,” Donovan said, factoring in postseason matches into his total number. “You play when you can, you rest when you can, and we're just going to go for it.”
Head coach Bruce Arena said he was “anticipating” both would be available, but associate head coach Dave Sarachan called them “day-to-day.”
“The hope is we'll have a full lineup on Sunday,” Sarachan said. “These guys are good pros, and they're going to do whatever they can to get on the field.”
Gonzalez will take an injection to ease the pain, and said he hopes “the soreness and all that stuff will go away before the game, and hopefully I'll be close to 100 percent by the game.”
If that doesn't occur, any chance he sits out?
“Oh, no,” Gonzalez replied. “I will be playing.”
Scott French covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com.