GALAXY: Juninho back in 'second home'
CARSON -- Juninho arrived over the weekend, trained Monday morning, and then declared he was happy and excited to be back with the Galaxy and felt “very content to return to my second home.”
It's not his first choice, let's be clear. The 23-year-old Brazilian midfielder would rather be running things for São Paulo, the powerhouse that loaned him to L.A. the past two seasons, recalled and re-signed him in December, then decided two weeks ago to loan him out, again, after all.
Unexpected riches for the Galaxy, which knew last summer Juninho probably was headed back to his home club and began the work leading to fellow Brazilian Marcelo Sarvas' December transfer from Alajuelense. Since then, David Beckham re-signed and Edson Buddle returned from Germany -- Juni's addition confirms that Major League Soccer's best defensive club now has the league's finest attacking talent.
More than that, he's a familiar face who knows the landscape -- and, partnering Beckham in he middle, played a pivotal role in the club's successes last season.
“He's come right back in and fit in the second he walked back into the building ...,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He's a very good player for us, no question about it. He scored a few timely goals, played a number of games, understands his role, complemented David Beckham quite well. I think his year, with the addition of Marcelo, we have potentially a very good midfield.”
Juninho says he is impressed with the new players he sees in camp.
“Very good players -- smart, intelligent. I think is better for us,” he said, alternating between much improved English and Spanish through assistant coach Curt Onalfo's translation. “We'll be stronger and we'll have good competition [within the team]. Edson's a very good player, and Sarvas. David will stay for two more years, and and Landon stays also. I think the Galaxy has a very good team.”
The Galaxy certainly was happy to have Juninho back on the field, and with Landon Donovan back in town -- but not yet in camp -- following a seven-week loan to Everton, the team is starting to come together. L.A. leaves Tuesday for Tucson, Ariz., where it wraps up preseason with four games against MLS foes in the Desert Diamond Classic.
Juninho could be in the lineup in Wednesday's tournament opener against New England.
“I'm feeling [fit], but I think I need to play games,” he said. “I think in Arizona I will have a couple of games. I think I'll play two times, like 45 minutes [each].”
Arena called the work to bring Juninho back “an exercise that was fairly trying over the past six months or so. We had become conditioned to the point that he was likely gone, although there was a possible condition of him returning. We were fortunate with that.”
Juninho trained with São Paulo from Jan. 4 through the second week of February, but he never made an 18-man game-day roster in the Paulista state tournament.
“I had a very good contract with São Paulo and was in a situation where there's a lot of very good players,” he said. “It was very difficult.”
Translation: He wasn't going to get much, if any, first-team time in Brazil.
“I think that's a fair way to describe that,” Arena said.
Juninho's just glad to be back.
“Two years ago, when I started here, my first year was complicated,” he said. “But now it's my third year. I'm so happy. I'm married, my wife is here.”
But if he could, he'd be elsewhere.
“I loved being here and winning a championship,” he said. “But I've always had the dream to try to play for São Paulo. It was an opportunity for me. But I feel great being here. I've got great friends, and it's a great club.”
WORTH NOTING: Is Robbie Keane homesick and ready to return to England? That's what British tabloid The Sun says, reporting that the Irish forward has told Aston Villa, where he's on trial through the weekend, that he might be ready for a transfer come summer. “Villa is a great club, but it was my choice to go to the States,” he's quoted as saying. “When I go back to L.A., it could be totally different. At this moment in time, I can't tell what will happen. It's a case of watch this space. But people have seen over the years with the clubs I've been at, how quickly I leave if I don't think I fit in.” ... Forward Chad Barrett practiced fully Monday for the first time since his foot injury before the MLS Cup final. Defender Sean Franklin is limited by hamstring tightness. ... The Galaxy opens the MLS Reserve League schedule two days after their league opener, facing Chivas USA on March 12 on their training field. The other home games: March 19 vs. Vancouver, May 8 vs. San Jose, July 24 vs. Seattle and Sept. 10 vs. Portland. The Galaxy also will play Chivas on July 10, with their archrival the home team. All of these games begin at 11 a.m.