GALAXY: Lopes is insurance for Leonardo
Lopes, acquired in a trade Tuesday with Chivas USA, is a stop-gap measure for the Galaxy, which is awaiting the returns of center backs Omar Gonzalez and Leonardo from knee injuries.
Head coach Bruce Arena said as much.
“We're a little behind with Leonardo coming back,” Arena said after Thursday's practice at Home Depot Center. “Our plan was he was going to be ready in March, but he's going to need more time. ...
“He's a player if he gets back to where he was, we've got a good young center back in the league. You know, we have him under contract now [after he was with L.A. last year on loan from São Paulo]. Sometimes you have to do things for the long-term. I think Lopes is a solution for the short-term.”
Lopes is big (6 feet 3 and muscular) and strong and athletic and physical, and those qualities have been missing on the Galaxy backline with Gonzalez out likely until mid- or late summer because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Arena, who called Lopes “an interesting player,” said a decision would be made Friday as to what his role, if any, will be for Saturday night's game against the Portland Timbers at Home Depot Center.
Whatever happens Saturday, Lopes will be asked to contribute quickly. He says he's coming into camp looking for a starting job.
“Absolutely,” Lopes said in Spanish through an interpreter. “The Galaxy is a great team, a team that's always winning, always getting good results. ... They have very good players and players with worldwide recognition, like David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane -- they're obviously here because they are quality, and that's why I'm here, because I have some quality as well. I just need to get better every day so I can play for the club.”
Arena said he'd spoken “on and off during the year” with Chivas about Lopes, that “there was always the possibility we could work something out.” Poor defending at the back has contributed mightily to a 1-4-1 start, all competitive matches, and a lack of bite in the middle needed to be addressed. Lopes provides that, and then some. At times he seems a penalty kick about the happen, and at others he's absolutely dominant.
“Bruce thought it was a move that would help us,” Donovan said. “He's going to need time, like any player, to acclimate to what goes on here and how we do things, but as a starting point, he looks pretty gifted. Obviously athletic, physically he can give us somethiong we've been missing without Omar. And he gives us more options and more competition, which we need right now.
“We need guys to compete and somebody to take hold of that spot.”
Andrew Boyens, Lopes' former Chivas teammate, and rookie Tommy Meyer have split time next to A.J. DeLaGarza in central defense, but neither has come close to winning the job. The hope is that Leonardo, also Brazilian, will step in when he's ready, but when that will be is uncertain.
Leonardo returned to training this week and is “close to being in the full swing of things,” Arena said. He's eligible to come off the disabled list for the April 28 match against FC Dallas at HDC, but that's probably too soon.
“He suffered a really devastating injury,” Arena said. “[ACL, the lateral collateral ligament], the [medial collateral ligament] with it and a little cartilage. There was a lot there, and his initial rehab in Brazil didn't go as well as expected. He had to have another surgery here in November with some scar tissue. He's been behind a little bit.”
Lopes wants to be more than a short-term solution.
“I was a little surprised [by the trade],” he said. “I didn't play many games with Chivas USA [this year]. I played a lot of games at the end of last year and came in this year with the mentality of working hard and trying to get a [starting] spot, but that didn't happen. So I was very surprised the Galaxy was interested in me, but now I'm here and I want to work hard because I really want to do well for this club.”
CARDOZO'S CHANCE: Paolo Cardozo, who went to Chivas in Tuesday's trade, could make his debut for the Goats on Saturday at Toronto FC. The Argentine playmaker was in the travel party Tuesday.
Arena says he thinks the move could do him some good.
“We lost a good young player, no question about it,” he said. “No trades are ever lopsided. If you're getting something that's going to help you, you've got to give up a player of some quality, and Paolo is. Hopefully, it's a good situation for him and a good opportunity to grow as a player. ... It's a club that likes him, and I think they'll utilize him.”
WORTH NOTING: Beckham confirmed it was a hamstring injury that kept him out of last week's game at Sporting Kansas City and said it was part of the reason he was pulled at halftime of the loss to New England a week earlier. “I'm feeling a lot better than I was,” he said. “Seems to have cleared up. Still a little but tight, but it shouldn't be an issue for this weekend.” ... Midfielder Michael Stephens sustained a sprained right ankle at the end of the game in K.C. and is questionable for Saturday's match. ... Lopes will wear No. 3. He has existing friendships with the Galaxy's other Brazilians: Leonardo, Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas. ... Josh Saunders is a finalist for MLS Save of the Week, for his first-half stop on Thousand Oaks' Chance Myers. Online balloting ends Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ... The Galaxy's July 24 MLS Reserve League game against Seattle has been moved to Monday, kicking off at 11 a.m. on the Galaxy's University Field 1 training ground. ... Galaxy Academy defender Javan Torre has joined the U.S. under-20 national team camp going on in Portland, Ore. ... The Galaxy will stage a beach soccer tournament June 29-July1 in Hermosa Beach. Cost is $445 per team, and registration is on Soccer in the Sand's website. Galaxy Academy U-18 head coach Eddie Soto, also a UCLA assistant coach, is head coach of the U.S. national beach soccer team.