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Goalkeeper Josh Saunders rejoins Galaxy, but only for practice

Saunders, who is enrolled in MLS' substance abuse and behavioral health program, has not yet been cleared to play. He says he is not being treated for drug or alcohol abuse, but for personal issues.

May 22, 2012|By Kevin Baxter
  • Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders fails to stop a shot by Sporting Kansas City's Kei Kamara (not pictured) during a match on April 7.
Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders fails to stop a shot by Sporting Kansas… (Ed Zurga / Getty Images )

Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who left the team a month ago to enroll in Major League Soccer's substance abuse and behavioral health program, was back on the training field Tuesday. But it's unclear how long it will be before he can play again.

Saunders, who held the Houston Dynamo scoreless in last November's MLS Cup final, said he was not being treated for drug or alcohol abuse, attributing his absence to personal issues.

"I was under some stress," said Saunders, 31, who started this season as a starting keeper for the first time in his eight-year MLS career. "I was putting myself under a lot of pressure. And I just needed to step away.

"I had some family issues and wanted to deal with them on my own. We're humans. We have a life outside of soccer. And people forget that."

Saunders, who will return to an undisclosed treatment center each day after training, must be cleared by the program's doctors and the league before he is eligible to rejoin the team full time. And Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena insisted he's in no rush to make that happen.

"This program has been real good for him. He looks like he's doing real well," said Arena, who will be without Saunders on Wednesday when the Galaxy meets the San Jose Earthquakes at the Home Depot Center. "To see him back doing so well, it's encouraging for everyone."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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