Monday, January 23, 2012
GALAXY: Sarvas knows his role
By Scott French
CARSON -- Marcelo Sarvas' first training session with his new Galaxy teammates primarily involved running. Fitness is the focus as Major League Soccer's reigning champions opened their preseason camp, but the Brazilian midfielder already is looking ahead.
After facing L.A. twice last season while in midfield for Costa Rican power Alajuelense, he's got a decent understanding of L.A.'s strengths and what he believes he can add to the mix.
Sarvas, 30, is the most anticipated arrival among 13 new signings, draft picks and trialists who joined 13 returning players on the rain-soaked field Monday morning at Home Depot Center, where the plan called for a little simple stuff with the ball interspersed with lots and lots of running.
He's got the biggest role, too, replacing Juninho -- David Beckham's midfield partner -- in one of the positions most pivotal to the club's chances for success.
“I know the story of Juninho here in this club,” Sarvas said in Spanish through a translator. “He came and did big things here. I'm not coming here to replace Juninho. I'm here to implement my own game here. ... I'm hoping to win a starting spot and do my own thing here.”
Sarvas is more attack-minded than Juninho, who arrived as a defensive midfielder and in two seasons on loan from Sao Paulo evolved into one of Major League Soccer's elite two-way midfielders, a progression that led his Brazilian masters to call him home. The job, head coach Bruce Arena says, is simple: “Whenever we play David centrally, the player next to David moves off of David.”
Sarvas has no problem with playing deputy to Beckham.
“I think we need more time to get to know each other,” he said. “I did face the Galaxy twice [in CONCACAF Champions League group play], and from seeing those games, David's a player I need to find a way to open up the game for him and give him the ball in spaces where he can create opportunities so we can do good things.”
Arena, when Sarvas signed last month on a free transfer, called him “a good, experienced, two-way midfielder I think is going to help our team. ... I think he's going to be a good addition.”
Beckham also thinks the partnership can be productive.
“When we played against [Alajuelense] last season, he's a good player,” Beckham said. “I don't think it's difficult [to quickly build an on-field relationship]. If you're a good player, then you can kind of play with any player, and he's a good player.”
Sarvas began his pro career with Corinthians in Sao Paulo and played in Sweden and Poland before spending last year with Alajuelense, which he led to the first- and second-half league titles. He was also a key performer in the Champions League, in which Alajuela finished even on points with the Galaxy and Mexico's Morelia but missed the cut for the quarterfinals. (He's cup-tied to the Costa Rican club and won't be eligible for the Galaxy during the tournament's knockout stage.)
His impression of L.A. was that “it's a team that knows how to maintain their lines. They're very structured, very organized line to line. They have a couple of players who know how to make a difference when it counts, but overall an organized team.”
And what can he add?
“Well, I'm from Brazil ...,” he replied in English, then switched back to Spanish. “I just have to keep within myself, do what I know I can do well. Which is passing, short passing to create offensive plays that will lead to goals.”
The chance to do so excites Sarvas.
“The Galaxy is a well-known club now, not just in the United States and regionally,” he said. “I think there's a lot of players worldwide that want to play for the Galaxy. I wasn't expecting things to work out so perfectly like they did for me and having this opportunity, but it's a great opportunity to have.”
WORTH NOTING: Arena said Brazilian central defender Leonardo's loan deal from Sao Paulo will be extended for a third season and that he should be in camp later this week. He's still rehabbing torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments but, the coach said, “should be able to play fully in April, we hope.” ... Supplemental draft pick Justin Davies (sprained ankle), from San Diego State, spent the first session in the trainers room. Second-year Home Grown forward Jack McBean (ankle) also skipped the first session. ... Juninho's departure allowed Chad Barrett to switch from No. 11 to his favored No. 19, the number he's worn since his freshman year of high school. ... Sarvas is No. 8, which had been unsigned midfielder Chris Birchall's number. Bryan Jordan has dropped No. 27 for No. 6, which Frankie Hejduk wore last year.