LOS ANGELES -- The Galaxy team David Beckham returns to is not quite the same group with which he won the MLS Cup championship two months ago, but he's doing something about that.
Beckham's midfield partner, Juninho, is gone, two remarkable seasons in L.A. paving his way to Sao Paulo's first team. Backline leader Omar Gonzalez is out for maybe the entire season after shredding the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The Galaxy needs to adequately replace both if they are to contend for a third straight Supporters' Shield and back-to-back MLS Cup titles, and Beckham could well be the key to doing so.
That's what Tim Leiweke says.
“He is out as we speak helping Bruce [Arena, the Galaxy's head coach and general manager] with a couple players we're trying to bring here,” said Leiweke, president and CEO of Galaxy owner AEG. “We're out of Designated Player slots, so we'll see how good a recruiter he is. Because they have to accept a salary that is not a Designated Player salary.
“He's helping us get better. He's the guy who helped me get [Irish striker] Robbie Keane. It took us one day to get Robbie Keane, 'cause David picked up the phone and recruited him.”
The Galaxy found a replacement for Juninho before Sao Paulo recalled his loan deal, signing his Brazilian countryman Marcelo Sarvas from Costa Rican powerhouse Alajuelense. Beckham and Sarvas met for the first time following the news conference Thursday afternoon at Staples Center to present Beckham after he signed on for two more years with the club.
“It's exciting, because when we played against [Alajuelense in the CONCACAF Champions League] last season, he's a good player. I'm excited about it,” Beckham said. “It's sad to see Juni go, because to see his improvement the last few years and see the success he brings to the team, [his departure] is very sad. We all wish him luck. You never know. He might come back.”
Finding a replacement for Gonzalez, the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, is critical. The 6-foot-5 center back was in his first training session after joining German Bundesliga club FC Nuremberg on loan when he knocked knees with U.S. national-teamer Timmy Chandler, tearing his ACL. He's expected to be out seven to nine months, so it's possible he could be back before the Major League Soccer playoffs begin at the start of November.
“It's so disappointing, because he's a talented young kid and was exceptional last season,” said Beckham, who had touted Gonzalez in England, where there is interest in his services. “He's one of the reasons why we were successful last season, but he'll be back playing. It's just when you're young like that, you tend to want to get back sooner than you should.”
No true replacement for Gonzalez will be found in the U.S. -- the only defenders at his level in MLS are Real Salt Lake's Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers, Seattle's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Houston's Geoff Cameron, FC Dallas' George John and New York's Rafa Marquez, and none of them are going to be traded -- so if Beckham can convince a top foreign defender that L.A.'s the place, even at less than DP money, he might truly be the club's savior.
“We're going to miss Omar, and that's going to be a hard slot for Bruce to fill,” Leiweke said. “But again, David is already working on players we can get, guys who will take a lot less to come here to be part of it. He's ferocious on recruiting. I've seen what he's been doing the last week. I saw what he did with Robbie Keane.
“And when David puts his mind to it, he's amazing. Bruce will tell you David's been very involved in trying to think through the two holes we have with Juninho and Omar. We've got to fill those holes. Bruce believes he's filled one, and we've got to fill the other.”
GOING, GOING, GONE: Arena acknowledged Thursday that veteran defender Frankie Hejduk and midfielder Jovan Kirovski will not return to the Galaxy this year.
Hejduk, 37, a former UCLA star who played at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and missed the 2006 tournament after tearing an ACL, joined the Galaxy in a trade 13 months ago after eight seasons with Columbus. L.A. declined his option after last season, then kept his rights by selecting him in the second-stage re-entry draft.
Kirovski, 35, played the past three seasons with the Galaxy, his second stint with the club following 10 years in England, Germany and Portugal. His versatility and experience were valuable but he saw limited time, playing just 244 minutes across 13 league games last season. L.A. declined his option, he withdrew from the re-entry process and is expected to retire.
Arena also said thwere were no plans “at the moment” to bring back defender Dasan Robinson, 27, who was acquired in a September trade with Toronto FC and made just one first-team competitive appearance for the Galaxy.
WORTH NOTING: English midfielder Chris Birchall's status remains uncertain, Arena said: “Our roster's getting full. We haven't finalized anything contracturally with him. It's still an option. We've been talking to him on and off. He initially wanted to go to England. As of late, it appears he wants to come back.” ... Arena said he's “hopeful” an agreement to bring back Brazilian central defender Leonardo can be worked out. Leonardo spent the past two seasons with L.A. on loan from Sao Paulo, but his missed most of last season because of torn knee ligaments and continues to rehab. ... The Galaxy's newest Brazilian, supplemental draft choice Yuri Gorentzvaig, is on loan from Flamengo. ... L.A. unveiled its new first-choice jersey at the Beckham news conference Thursday. The white shirt has a diagonal blue stripe, like a sash, from the left shoulder to the right hip and a patch commemorating the MLS Cup triumph. ... Arena plans to bring in one trialist when preseason camp opens this weekend. The player's name is to be announced Friday.