Galaxy get Brazilian defender in trade

Updated: April 10, 2012, 10:14 PM ET
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com

CARSON -- The Galaxy finally made a move for a big defender, trading for Chivas USA backup David Junior Lopes on Tuesday afternoon.

L.A. gave up Argentine midfielder Paolo Cardozo, the club's most skillful player, to get the Brazilian center back, who will become an option -- along with veteran Andrew Boyens and rookie Tommy Meyer -- to play next to A.J. DeLaGarza in MLS Defender of the Year Omar Gonzalez's spot as he recovers from surgery two months ago to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Lopes is big -- 6 feet 3, an inch shorter than Boyens and two inches shorter than Gonzalez -- and athletic, but he's been mistake-prone since joining Chivas last August from Romanian club Universitatea Craiova.

The Galaxy have been desperate for help in the back since Gonzalez went down in early January during his first training session for German Bundesliga side FC Nuremberg, which acquired the Texan on a short loan just after New Year's.

Meyer and Boyens have split time in central defense, and their mistakes were costly in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal defeat to Toronto FC and as the Galaxy have started the Major League Soccer campaign at 1-3-0.

L.A. has conceded 12 goals in six competitive matches after surrendering just 28 in 34 MLS regular-season games last year, when the club won the MLS Cup title and the Supporters' Shield as the league's top regular-season team.

Galaxy head coach/general manager Bruce Arena said discussions with Chivas have been ongoing "for a while" and that Lopes strengthens the team at center back and at left back, enabling rookie Bryan Gaul to focus on being Todd Dunivant's backup rather than as a center back.

"[Lopes is] a big, strong center back, left-footed, good athletic ability," Arena said. "Giving us a little bit more physicality in that position that we haven't had. And experience. I do think with all these type of moves you make, you need to see how the player deals with the transition. We're open to what kind of role he's going to play.

Brazilian center back Leonardo is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 28. He started seven games for the Galaxy last year before tearing anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments in his right knee nearly a year ago.

Lopes played in eight games, starting seven, last season for Chivas and also made one MLS Reserve League appearance. He has not played in the Goats' first five games this year and wasn't on the 18-man roster for the past three matches. He started three games in six appearances during an Chivas' 11-game preseason slate.

Lopes, 29, had fallen behind in Chivas' pecking order, to No. 4 or 5, with the acquisitions of Colombian John Alexander Valencia and Americans Rauwshan McKenzie and Scott Gordon. McKenzie and Heath Pearce have been the Goats' starting duo in central defense.

"We had a lot of center backs, and they need a center back," Chivas general manager Jose Domene said. "We were looking for a different type of attacking midfielder, a different type of attacking weapon, and [Cardozo] fits right in. ... He's an interesting player, a different type of player you don't see very often in this league."

Lopes was on the bench but did not play as Chivas beat the Fullerton Rangers, 3-2, in a friendly Tuesday morning at Home Depot Center.

The Galaxy acquired the Uruguayan-born Cardozo via last year's MLS SuperDraft on loan from Argentine second-division club Quilmes. The 5-foot-5 attacker, who has silky ball skills, isn't a strong enough defensive player to make an impact in Arena's system.

Cardozo, 22, has played in two games this season, starting for Landon Donovan in the 3-1 loss to New England 10 days ago, after making 23 appearances with 11 starts in MLS, playoff, Champions League and U.S. Open Cup action last year. He also played in four friendlies and nine MLS Reserve League games and made six starts in eight preseason appearances this year, scoring two goals.

Scott French covers soccer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.