Tuesday Kicks: Galaxy’s Saunders reportedly in substance abuse program & more

*Los Angeles Times reporter Kevin Baxter broke the story here today.

The Galaxy’s starting goalkeeper missed last weekend’s game against Dallas for “personal” reasons and it’s unclear when he will return to the team.

Josh Saunders joins several other high-profile MLS players to battle substance abuse including former Galaxy midfielder Santino Quaranta, who became addicted to pain killers while with the club, and New England Revolution’s Shalrie Joseph.

*Big ratings for EPL and UEFA Champions Leagues games, according to AP:

NEW YORK (AP) — Both Champions League semifinals and the Manchester derby for first place in the Premier League averaged more 1 million television viewers in the U.S. despite weekday afternoon starting times.

The four Champions League semifinal legs averaged 1,033,000 viewers on Fox’s English- and Spanish-language networks, up 29 percent from last year, Fox said Tuesday.

The second leg between Chelsea and Barcelona on Fox Soccer drew 438,000 viewers on April 24, up 71 percent from last year’s second leg between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Viewership on Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes combined for 983,000, up 20 percent.

A day later, Bayern Munich’s penalty-kicks win over Real drew 627,000 on FX, nearly double the 308,000 for last year’s semifinal between Manchester United and Schalke. The combined English and Spanish viewers was 1,236,000 — the largest U.S. Champions League audience other than for a final.

Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Manchester United on Monday drew 1,033,000 viewers on ESPN, the largest U.S. audience for a Premier League match on cable. The previous high was 610,000 for Arsenal’s win over Chelsea on ESPN2 on Dec. 27, 2010.

The game drew an additional 273,000 viewers on ESPN Deportes. The game averaged 87,200 viewers a minute on ESPN3 and WatchESPN for people seeing the game on computers, smart phones, tablets and Xbox.

*The Galaxy is the 219th best paying club in the world (just ahead of Scottish team Hearts), while Chivas USA is at No. 251, according to ESPN. No. 5 is the Lakers, although no U.S. pro team makes the top four (which doesn’t mean much except to explain why European soccer clubs are so heavily in debt). Full list here.

*While I was waiting for my coffee to kick in this morning, I was wondering why my Facebook friends were posting these damn ugly Galaxy kits on their profiles. Now I know, in what is a thinly advertised ad for the official Galaxy jersey sponsors (because, y’know they need the pub and the $80 or whatever it costs for you to buy a third Galaxy jersey this season).

*Late Torrance resident Ron Littlefair and West Hills resident Michael Michalski will be inducted into the American Youth Soccer Organization’s National Hall of Fame May 24-28 at the organization’s National Annual General Meeting in Seattle.

Littlefair was a part of the small group of soccer enthusiast parents that founded AYSO in 1964 in Torrance. Two years later he became the third league organizer copying rosters, newsletters and registration forms in his garage, as well as storing about 500 sets of uniforms there. He traveled the nation for AYSO before retiring from the group in 1976.

Michalski is probably best known as the founder of the AYSO National Games, which began in 1988.

Also to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is John Ouellette, who was the face of the AYSO National Coaching Program for 22 years as the AYSO National Coach until his 2010 retirement.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group soccer columnist and blogger Nick Green writes at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!