CARSON, Calif. – For two seasons, São Paulo loanee Juninho quietly made a name for himself in the heart of the Galaxy’s midfield. “Juni,” however, returned to his native Brazil after his loan deal ran out, leaving a gaping hole in the club’s midfield.
Enter Marcelo Sarvas (pictured above, No. 8). The midfielder joined LA after catching the club’s eye while playing for Alajuelense in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Exit one Brazilian, enter another. Hole filled, right?
“I know Juninho’s story here is great – he did good things the years he spent here,” Sarvas told reporters on Monday after his first Galaxy training session. “But I am not here to replace Juninho. I am here to play my own game. We have different characteristics and I’m hoping to win and make space for myself like Juni did.”
In Sarvas, the Galaxy have a player who figures to slide right into a starting midfield spot, likely pairing with David Beckham in the middle of the park. Whatever qualities Juninho offered that helped the Galaxy win the Supporters’ Shield two years running and MLS Cup 2011 are not necessarily those Sarvas will try to emulate.
Instead, he will do what he does and hope it will be enough to help the team remain atop the league.
“I have to contribute the best way I know how – to hold the ball, make passes, and create situations so we can score goals,” Sarvas said.
A potential Sarvas-Beckham pairing could give the Galaxy some defensive bite as well as offensive punch. Creating chemistry and understanding one another is something that will likely be ironed out in the preseason.
“We haven’t played together yet," Sarvas said of Beckham. "I trained with him for the first time today and we have to get to know each other.”
Still, Sarvas has more than just an outsider’s view on the English superstar. Sarvas was in Alajuelense’s lineup for both of the Costa Rican club’s Champions League games against the Galaxy and spent his time analyzing and marking Beckham.
“I played twice against the Galaxy,” he said. “He makes it easier on you when he has the ball. I think it’s preferable to play alongside experienced and quality players like him.”
While playing for Alajuelense against LA, Sarvas said he saw a team that was well-organized and did well to impose their tactical style on the match. What he did not necessarily see was a club for whom he would play soon. But when the Galaxy reached out to him, he was more than happy to answer.
“[The] Galaxy is a well-known team, not just here but abroad," he said. "A lot of players have the desire to play with the Galaxy. I did not think that things would work out this well, but it’s a great opportunity to have.”
Aside from forcing coach Bruce Arena’s hand and inserting himself into the starting lineup, Sarvas hopes to make his move complete when he finds a place to live – “I’m like homeless for the moment” – and when wife Camila and four-year-old son Lucas join him in March.
“Everybody is looking forward to the new life,” he said.
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org