Landon Donovan returns to the Galaxy this weekend.
Andy Mead/

Galaxy have held up to the challenge

By the time things kick off at The Home Depot Center on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Galaxy could be as close to 100 percent as they have been in a long time. All of the players that have been missing due to World Cup qualifying will return to the fold in time for training on Friday, and depending on their abilities to recover physically from the rigors of international duties, they should be ready and able to play against Real Salt Lake.

In their absence, a patchwork group of players have started. In fact, in the three games the Galaxy was without their internationals, they didn't field the same starting lineup once. After using quite a few second team players, the Galaxy can almost breath a sigh of relief when looking back at their most recent stretch of games.

"It's been a challenge, but we haven't lost a game under those conditions," said Galaxy coach Steve Sampson. "I'm not 100 percent satisfied with our results, but I think they're just results."

During the stretch, the Galaxy was deprived of a good chunk of their offense. Landon Donovan, who still leads the team in scoring despite missing four games already this season, was the first to go. After that, it seemed that one or two more players went missing either through injury or national team call-ups for each subsequent game.

By the time everything was said and done, six players who either were starters or saw significant time off the bench were missing for last weekend's tilt against the MetroStars. That game ended in a tie, and overall, the Galaxy went 1-0-2, the one win being a "road" win against Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center.

"I'd be lying if I said we didn't want nine points. In three games we took away five points," said Galaxy captain Pete Vagenas. "It's not ideal, but we didn't take any losses which is important."

The Galaxy's ability to cope with adversity will be the theme of their season. One of the pitfalls of having such a talented lineup is that those same players are in high demand with their national teams.

Galaxy veteran goalkeeper Kevin Hartman is happy with the way his teammates performed this past month.

"In the past four games we're 2-0-2, and we've had a lot of guys away with qualifiers," said Hartman. "It was difficult. We're a team that's overcoming things."

For the Galaxy, one thing can be taken away from these past three games that is more important than the standings. The Galaxy now have the piece of mind that certain players can step in and perform when called upon, and the understanding that other players just aren't quite ready yet.

Greg Daurio is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.

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