It was a Father’s Day full of returns for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Galaxy themselves returned from a long, three-week international break, but more importantly, it welcomed back an important piece to their lineup, as goalkeeper Josh Saunders made his return to the lineup on Sunday, and his presence between the pipes was crucial in the Galaxy’s 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers (3-6-4, 13 points) at the Home Depot Center.
“Having him back and having him playing at the level he did today was the reason we got the zero,” Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said of Saunders’ performance.
Dunivant scored the lone goal early in the second half, but it turned out to be all the Galaxy (4-8-2, 14 points) needed in snapping its seven-match winless streak and also earn them its first shutout win of the season. The three points earned also puts the Galaxy out of last place in the Western Conference.
“It felt great,” Saunders said. “We battled through the game. We kept believing that we were going to start winning some games.”
Saunders had spent almost two months away from the team while he was in MLS’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program back in April. Saunders was put to the test right away in the seventh minute, as Kris Boyd got a ball behind the Galaxy back line and fire away, but Saunders turned back the chance with his face. Saunders felt a little woozy following the save, but he was able to continue between the pipes, and he denied Boyd again in the 26th minute when the Scottish striker tried a long range chance, but Saunders redirected the shot across the endline.
“Do whatever it takes,” Saunders said regarding his face-save. “Sometimes that gets you back into the game.”
The Galaxy had some chances themselves. A point-blank header by Chad Barrett two minutes into the match was saved by keeper Troy Perkins, then in the 15th minute, a shot just outside the box from Landon Donovan ricochet off the right post. The Galaxy finally nudged ahead in the 61st minute, as Todd Dunivant headed in a David Beckham corner near post to put LA in front. It was also the left-back’s first goal in more than two years.
“David obviously served an incredible set piece,” Dunivant said. “I found a little space back there and I was able to nod it home.”
The Galaxy won’t have much time to savor its win, as they travel to Utah for an important showdown with conference-leading Real Salt Lake on Wednesday, followed by a return home to face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.