GALAXY: Juninho's return is a priority
November, 23, 2011
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
CARSON -- The Galaxy is in talks with Sao Paulo to bring Juninho back next year, but the Brazilian midfielder says the situation isn't as simple as it appears.
Juninho, 22, has spent the past two season in L.A. on loan from the Paulista powerhouse, and he said his contract with the club runs out in about six months -- enough time to work out a pre-contract with the Galaxy, which would then, it follows, seek to extend the loan agreement for the first few months of 2012.
“The club in Brazil definitely wants something in return,” Juninho said through a translator Wednesday at Home Depot Center following the Galaxy's final domestic training session of the year. “And they have other offers and options.”
A number of players are out of contract (David Beckham, of course, but Sean Franklin, too) or have options to be determined (such as Chris Birchall), but the team has not acknowledged which players are in which camp and isn't expected to do so.
The Galaxy has an offer out to Beckham, who says he'll decide whether to sign for a sixth season (possible), head elsewhere (possible, with Paris Saint-Germain likeliest) or retire (not very likely). Birchall says he's waiting to see what the Galaxy plans to do with him. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena says he's “hopeful we can bring [Franklin] back” and is “exploring how we can” keep Juninho.
Juninho says he definitely wants to return.
“I'm very happy here,” he said. “This is a family right now, and after winning the cup, everybody is happy. I'm very secure here. I have my wife here and a lot of friends.”
NO CELEBRATION?: Want to celebrate the Galaxy's MLS Cup title? Go to it then -- the club, despite mulling options, has no plans for a public celebration involving the players and coaches.
“It's difficult because of the timing,” Donovan said. “We needed a few days just to get away and enjoy ourselves, then we've got Thanksgiving -- guys are leaving and want to go home and see their families, because we're going to be gone [to Asia and Australia, departing Saturday] for two weeks. So it makes it difficult.
“But I think our fans have been fortunate; they've had a lot to celebrate with us. I understand it's probably frustrating if we don't have a proper celebration, but I think they understand.”
STILL AT FULL STRENGTH: The Galaxy's media availability was just before the Montreal Impact's expansion-draft selections were announced, and players were anxious to hear the news.
“Everyone's just standing by the phones just to see if their agents are calling to let them know, or if it's going to be a surprise and a shock for one of the players,” said Birchall, an English midfielder who was left unprotected for Wednesday's draft. “It's kind of unusual for me. I come from Europe, and this is completely new to me and quite bizarre to some of the players that are coming over from abroad, as well.”
“It's not fun,” Donovan said. “Especially when you win [the championship], because then literally three days later someone could be gone. We keep our fingers crossed. Last year we got lucky. My guess is we won't be as lucky this year.”
The Galaxy did get lucky. For the second straight year, nobody was taken from their roster.
WORTH NOTING: Robbie Keane says he's “getting a few calls from various clubs” about coming over on loan in January but that it “would be stupid to go anywhere to play for a couple months [on loan] when I can have a few weeks off.” ... Defender Frankie Hejduk, 37, says he hopes to return to the Galaxy next season. Midfielder Jovan Kirovski, 35, says he has made no decision on whether he will play another season. ... Juninho, on the post-final party at Staples Center: “It was once in a lifetime, just the joy in everyone's face.” Said Birchall: “I think we were all a bit hungover for a day” afterward. ... Donovan said he was “showing my age. I went home early and went to bed. I was exhausted.” What's “early”? Three a.m.