BY MIKE DONOVAN
After missing the last four matches due to a broken bone in his shoulder, Timbers captain Will Johnson is ready to return to field for the final two months of Portland’s season.
“It’s been really tough. There’s not much you can do,” Johnson told the Oregonian. “The closer you get to it – the two home games, I was sitting up in the top…it’s brutal. It’s just too hard, especially when the guys are struggling, you want to get out there.”
In Johnson’s absence, the Timbers mustered a 1-1-2 record and dropped consecutive matches for the first time in 2013. Johnson trained with the club this week and is expected to play Saturday against Toronto.
Here are some more news and notes from around the Western Conference:
On Monday, Chivas USA announced that Martin Aaron Ponce’s loan spell with the Goats was over and that Ponce will be returning to Chivas Guadalajara. The 21-year-old midfielder played in five matches for the club, starting one. A former Mexican Youth International, Ponce struggled to make his presence felt with the Goats and had played just once in the club’s last nine matches.
With goals in consecutive matches, Edson Buddle has brought his MLS career total to 97, leaving him three short of becoming the eighth player in league history to notch 100 goals. The recent goals have been a revelation for Buddle, who had a 11-game goalless drought broken after finding the net in Colorado’s 2-0 victory over Vancouver in mid-August.
Buddle, who has come off the bench in the last two matches, would become just the third active player with 100 league goals, joining Landon Donovan and Dwayne De Rosario. The 31-year-old, who played for the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup, has four goals this season.
FC Dallas will be participating in a local Heart Walk this weekend, in honor of their former player and broadcaster, Bobby Rhine, who passed away from a heart attack in Sept. 2011. The club and its FC Dallas Foundation is sponsoring a team in this Saturday’s Dallas Heart Walk.
Members of Rhine’s family, along with players, staff, and fans of the organization will wear No. 19 jerseys in honor of Rhine during the walk. The club has already tripled their goal of raising $2,000 for the cause.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
With Omar Gonzalez once again being called away for U.S. duty, Leonardo will try to fulfill the leadership void in the middle of the Galaxy’s defense when the club takes on Colorado Saturday. Leonardo has started the last four matches for LA, a ten-point stretch that has solidified the club’s playoff position. Boosted by his recent string of starts, the 25-year-old Brazilian believes the team will can continue its form without Gonzalez.
“It’s going to be a lot of responsibility, but we need to get used to playing without Omar because he’s going to be with the national team a lot,” Leonardo told the club’s website. “I’m confident that we are ready.”
REAL SALT LAKE
Joao Plata, who at five-foot-two is the shortest player in MLS history, is coming off one of his best performances of his career after a one-goal, two-assist effort against Portland Friday. The 21-year Ecuadorian has been a major factor in Real Salt Lake being at the top of the Western Conference standings.
“I think Joao is somebody who has been playing really, really well for a long stretch now,” RSL coach Jason Kreis told the Deseret News. “He’s been an important player for us with assists and goals.”
Plata was traded from Toronto FC in the offseason and has appeared in 24 matches for RSL in 2013.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
A year after the Earthquakes held Steven Lenhart Wig night, the club is once again holding a promotion in connection with the forward’s hairstyle. On Sunday, the club will hand out Lenhart Chia Pets to the first 2,500 fans in attendance.
In last year’s wig match, Lenhart came off the bench to score the game-tying goal in the 98th minute. The promotion is believed to be the first time a MLS club has handed out Chia Pets in honor of one of their players.
While Eddie Johnson’s goal celebration Saturday raised some eyebrows, his general manager seems to have little problem with the American International’s “pay me” celebration.
“You know, Eddie’s a super-emotional guy, and so, no, I didn’t take it personally. Eddie and I have talked on multiple occasions. We have a good relationship, so to me it was nothing more than a little bit of emotion coming out. And again, Eddie has earned some more money, so we’ll work on that,” general manager Adrian Hanuer told the Seattle Times. “He understands the salary cap issues and that it may not come as fast as he wants, but we’re working on it.”
Since arriving in Seattle prior to the 2012 season, Johnson has 21 goals and five assists in 44 appearances for the club.
Despite having the hardest remaining schedule amongst Western Conference teams (based on opponent’s winning percentage), Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie is not worried about future opponents.
“That’s not the way the game works. You’ve got to play every game. If points were given out then we’d know who was going to win the league before the season starts,” Rennie told the Vancouver Sun. “Basically we’ve just got to focus on playing one game this weekend and do everything as well as we possibly can and not worry at what point of the season we’re at, who we’re going to play.”