Juninho to return to Galaxy after all

In an unexpected move, the Galaxy announced today that Brazilian midfielder Juninho, who became a fan favorite for his ferocious shot and high workrate, will return to the club after all for a second loan spell.

In addition, the club announced that Brazilian central defender Leonardo will also return to the club, this time on a permanent transfer.

Both players are from Brazilian club Sao Paulo.

The twin announcement comes the day after striker Edson Buddle returned to the club from Germany and back-up midfielder Chris Birchall confirmed via Twitter that he would not be returning to the Galaxy, as widely expected.

Juninho is the big prize here for the club, which hadn’t been expected to re-sign the player. He had signed a contract extension with Sao Paulo and began training with the club’s first team in early January.

Here’s more from the Galaxy:

Juninho, who is scheduled to return to Southern California next week ahead of the Galaxy’s preseason trip to Arizona, was an All-Star for the Galaxy last season and has been an ever-present force in the center of the Galaxy midfield over the past two seasons, starting 55 regular season games as well as six of the club’s seven postseason matches.

One of the breakout stars in MLS last season, the 23-year-old appeared in and started 30 regular season games for the Galaxy, scoring four goals and adding two assists while combining with David Beckham to form one of the best central midfield duos in Major League Soccer.

His impact on the field was even more profound in the CONCACAF Champions League, where he scored the game-winning goal in each of LA’s final two games in group play, giving the Galaxy a 2-1 home win over Morelia and a 1-0 win at Motagua, which gave LA a first place finish in Group A.

Leonardo, who turned 24-years-old on Sunday, was a key figure in the center of the Galaxy defense at the start of both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, but was limited by injures during his first two seasons with the Galaxy, playing in 17 of the club’s 64 regular season games in that time.

After appearing in and starting 10 games for the club in 2010, the six-foot-two Sao Paulo native started each of LA’s first seven games in 2011, helping them go 3-1-3 and keep three clean sheets while even scoring the first goal of his MLS career in the 1-0 home win over Philadelphia on April 2.

However, late in the club’s 2-1 win in Chicago on April 17, Leonardo suffered a severe right knee injury, tearing both the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL), which forced him to undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the season. He has been continuing his rehabilitation throughout the offseason and will return to Los Angeles tonight in order to move forward with his rehabilitation as he approaches a return to full fitness.

Also, tickets for the home leg of the Galaxy’s 7 p.m. March 14 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Toronto FC go on sale Thursday, starting at $30.

That game, which is the second leg of the aggregate goal series against Toronto, has a limited capacity of just 7,500 at Home Depot Center because of a “long standing, mutual agreement” with California State Dominguez Hills to reduce stadium capacity at midweek games during the school year.

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About Nick Green

South Bay-based Los Angeles News Group columnist and blogger Nick Green writes about soccer at the 100 Percent Soccer blog at www.insidesocal.com/soccer and craft beer at the Beer Goggles blog at www.insidesocal.com/beer. Cheers!
  • UCLABZ

    Great news for the Galaxy!

    Do you know if the Galaxy upped their offer for him or he was unable to break into a starting spot at Sao Paulo?

  • Inigo Montoya

    Juninho is huge news.

    Leonardo, well, we’ll see. He was slow and not very effective in 2010, early 2011.

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/soccer Nick Green

    I’m guessing the latter; reports out of Brazil when he signed suggested the club had a lot of talent in midfield…

  • Limey

    Awesome, I love that Kid! Wow expectations are going to be very high for this team!