Arena: Galaxy working to bring Juninho back for 2013
David Beckham’s departure won’t be the only personnel move this offseason in Galaxy-land.
LA boss Bruce Arena, on a conference call with local beat writers on Wednesday morning, confirmed that MLS Cup 2012 was likely Swedish national-teamer Christian Wilhelmsson’s last match with the team. The right midfielder, who added width to the LA Galaxy's attack, is not expected to return in 2013.
Wilhelmsson, 32, signed in early September and made nine appearances for the Galaxy while battling fitness issues and injuries. He started seven games, including this past weekend's MLS Cup title-game victory over Houston and both legs of the Western Conference Championship against Seattle, and contributed a goal in his debut Sept. 14 against Colorado and an assist on Robbie Keane's second goal in the 3-0 romp Nov. 11 over the Sounders.
“I don't expect Wilhelmsson to be back,” Arena said. “He has other options on the table.”
Wilhelmsson, asked two days before the championship game whether he would return said: “I hope so. We are discussing that right now.”
Barrett has returned from a five-month loan to Norwegian club Vålerenga that expires Dec. 31. He is one of six Galaxy players whose contract options were declined and are on the list for Major League Soccer's Re-Entry Draft.
Juninho, a pillar in the Galaxy midfield, signed a three-year contract last winter with São Paulo, then returned to LA on loan on Feb. 7 after failing to win a spot in the Brazilian powerhouse's rotation. He scored nine goals with six assists in 42 first-team appearances in 2013 across all competitions.
“We've been working [on bringing him back] for a while,” Arena said. “We'll keep working on it. We're hopeful we can bring him back.”
Other news out of the conference call:
• Arena said there was “no urgency” to bring in a Designated Player to replace Beckham nor to replace his roster slot.
• The Galaxy “remain in conversation” with their other five players on the Re-Entry list – goalkeeper Brian Perk, defenders Andrew Boyens and Bryan Jordan, midfielder Kyle Nakazawa and forward Pat Noonan – and could renegotiate contracts with them. Arena expects to see player(s) pull out of the Re-Entry process by Thursday afternoon's deadline.
• The Galaxy have made a bona fide offer to midfielder Mike Magee, who is out of contract, are in discussions with Brazilian defender Leonardo on a new deal and will “have discussions” with starting goalkeeper Josh Saunders, also out of contract, “to see where he stands” before making a decision on his return.
• Eighteen-year-old Academy defender Oscar Sorto “will be signed” to a Homegrown player contract for 2013, according to Arena, and the Galaxy coach has interest in signing Cal State Bakersfield All-American Gyasi Zardes, for whom the Galaxy hold Homegrown rights. Sorto made seven MLS Reserve League games for LA in 2012, starting three of them.
• Arena would like to schedule an exhibition game with new Mexican champions Club Tijuana, who are based about 125 miles south of Carson, but he would not be willing to play on the Xoloitzcuintles' artificial-turf field at Estadio Caliente.