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GALAXY: Frankie Hejduk is coming home

12/30/2010

Soccer's No. 1 surfer boy is coming home. Officially.

The Galaxy on Thursday signed defender Frankie Hejduk to a one-year contract, bolstering its backline depth with a two-time World Cup selection who might have played in four World Cups with better fortune.

The 36-year-old right back, whose rights were acquired from Sporting Kansas City after he was taken from Columbus in Major League Soccer's re-entry draft, grew up in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, in San Diego County, and starred at UCLA.

A champion junior surfer, Hejduk decided to pursue soccer when the scholarship offer from UCLA arrived. It was a prudent decision: He was an MLS original, with the Tampa Bay Mutiny, spent five seasons in Germany and Switzerland, then returned to MLS in 2003, playing a key role in the Columbus Crew's 2008 MLS Cup title run.

Celebrated for his surf-inspired “dude”-speak, long blond locks and devotion to Bob Marley, Hejduk is among American soccer's great characters off the field -- and one of its most dedicated players on the field. Energetic if inelegant, Hejduk has been a resourceful flank player throughout his career, always providing top effort and using an ability to outrun foes -- even those a decade or more younger -- to his advantage.

Hejduk was one of the best U.S. performers during the Americans' disastrous 1998 World Cup run, and he contributed to the quarterfinal run four years later. Only a torn anterior cruciate ligament kept him off the 2006 team -- he traveled to Germany on his own dime to root on his U.S. teammates -- and his services could have been valuable in South Africa last summer had U.S. coach Bob Bradley chosen to include him.

He also played in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and made his final national team appearance during qualifying for last summer's World Cup.

Hejduk, who played for Galaxy coach Bruce Arena at the Atlanta Olympics and during his eight-year tenure as national team coach, figures to serve as backup to starting right back Sean Franklin.

The Galaxy continue negotiations with Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel, whose rights also were acquired in the re-entry draft.