Dan Kennedy’s Southern California homecoming hasn’t gotten off to the start he had hoped.
Less than 20 minutes into his first Major League Soccer game with the Galaxy, Kennedy cleared a ball from in front of his goal, then hobbled to the sidelines with a torn groin muscle.
Seven weeks later the groin has healed but Kennedy remains sidelined, with Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena going with the hot hand of backup goalkeeper Brian Rowe instead. Rowe, who started his sixth straight game Saturday against unbeaten Real Salt Lake, has stopped a league-leading 83% of the shots he’s faced while allowing only four goals, fewest among regular MLS keepers.
And while that’s given Kennedy the time to fully recover from his injury, it’s also raised questions about whether he’ll ever get his job back.
As for the long term, Arena wouldn’t say.
“That’s not a decision I have to worry about right now,” he said. “No decision needs to be made at this point.”
Kennedy is a player Arena long wanted. He tried trading for him during the keeper’s seven seasons with Chivas USA, which shared the StubHub Center with the Galaxy, then watched Kennedy leave for FC Dallas during the 2014 expansion draft after the Chivas franchise folded.
But less than a year later, Kennedy found himself out of a job. Kennedy sustained a knee injury last August, opening the door for backup Jesse Gonzalez — and Gonzalez was spectacular, allowing just two goals in his first four games.
Kennedy never played again in Dallas.
With the club pinching pennies — Dallas had the lowest payroll in MLS last season — Kennedy’s $233,000 salary and Gonzalez’s performance made the former Chivas captain expendable. Arena, predictably, jumped at the chance to finally get him in a Galaxy jersey.
Now Kennedy, who grew up in Fullerton and played at El Dorado High, then alongside Juergen Klinsmann with the Orange County Blue Star, has seen the groin injury put a damper on a return he too had celebrated.
“Yeah, it didn’t go as I’d planned,” he said. “But nonetheless it’s happened, it’s out of the way, it’s done. And now we’ve still got a whole lot of season ahead of us.
Kennedy dismisses any similarities to last season, though.
“Different circumstances. Different setup,” he said.
Which would be true, if only the circumstances and the setup weren’t exactly the same. In both cases Kennedy was the unquestioned starter, in both cases an injury resulted in playing time for his understudy and in both cases the backup played brilliantly.
What remains unknown, however, is how the second chapter will end. Kennedy, who will turn 34 in July, still has a few good seasons left and will likely stick around. Rowe, meanwhile, is 27, and after making $60,000 last year, he is due a big raise, which may price him out of the team’s future plans.
“I’m really just taking it day to day,” Rowe said. “It’s hard to look that far ahead and really get into a lot of what-if scenarios. Whatever comes, comes.”
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11