CARSON, Calif. – David Junior Lopes is feeling more and more comfortable in his surroundings, and the LA Galaxy couldn’t be happier.
The 29-year-old central defender, thrust into a starting spot almost immediately after his mid-April trade from Chivas USA, scored the tying goal in Tuesday’s entertaining 1-1 with English Premier League powerhouse Tottenham Hotspur in front of a crowd of 25,676 at The Home Depot Center.
Highlights: LA 1, THFC 1
Lopes was on the receiving end of a nice crossing pass from Hector Jimenez right in front of the Tottenham goal, and Lopes had no trouble redirecting it past helpless goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini in the 29th minute.
It was Lopes’ first goal with the Galaxy and he understandably was pleased to contribute.
“I’m very happy,” he said through an interpreter. “For the team and myself. I’d be a lot happier if it had been in league. Still, against a big club from a big league, overall I’m very happy.”
The Galaxy were desperate for central defenders when they acquired Lopes from Chivas for midfielder Paolo Cardozo, the Galaxy’s first round pick (16th overall) in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. Starting center back Omar Gonzalez, the 2011 MLS Defender of the Year, was out for an indefinite period after suffering a serious knee injury and other candidates to take his place weren’t working out as well as Galaxy coaches had hoped.
In stepped the Brazilian, who has started 14 of the 15 games that he has appeared in since the trade and looks to be growing confident in his role.
“I think he’s looking very good,” said Gonzalez, who played 64 minutes on Tuesday. “The past couple of games he’s done really well. He’s stopping a lot of balls coming through the middle, and he’s been great with that.
“I think positionally he’s been getting a lot better, too.”
Lopes said his comfort level with the Galaxy continues to grow.
“Today I feel very good,” he said. “Every day I talk to my coaches, I talk to my teammates. Things are getting better, and right now they’re really good.”
Gonzalez said he’s been able to tell a distinct difference in Lopes’ performances since he arrived three months ago.
“It’s always tough coming into a new team, not knowing the players,” he said. “But I think he did well. Players are going to make their mistakes and no one has a perfect game. He’s had those mistakes and I think he’s learned from them. I think he’s better with the ball now, and he’s just doing a lot better for the team.”
Fellow central defender A.J. DeLaGarza, who has spent the most time playing alongside Lopes this season added, “He looks a lot better. We’re getting used to him and he’s getting used to us. There’s kind of a balance. The beginning of the season we were kind of learning each other out and it wasn’t really clicking. But now it’s getting better between everybody.”
Lopes said he couldn’t be happier being on the defending MLS Cup champions.
“The Galaxy definitely is my life now,” he said. “Every day I get to learn more about the club and the club gets to learn more about me.
Progressively I’m doing more with the club, and that’s probably the best thing.”