BY ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif. –David Junior Lopes is fully aware of the opportunity that being a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy presents and the Brazilian centerback is out to make the most of it.
Lopes was acquired from Chivas USA on Tuesday in a deal that sent Paolo Cardozo to the Galaxy's cross-hall rivals. Lopes is expected to add depth to a club that has sorely lacked a physical presence along the back four since defender Omar Gonzalez went down with a torn ACL in January.
While the trade came as something of a shock to the Brazilian centerback, Lopes is ready to contribute to the Galaxy's back four.
"I'm very happy to be here after the trade. I'm a bit surprised, I didn't play as many games with Chivas USA as I played a lot of games at the end of last year. I came into this year with the mentality of working hard and trying to get a spot, but that didn't happen," Lopes said after his first training session with the Galaxy on Thursday. "I was very surprised that the Galaxy was interested in me and now I'm here and I have to work hard because I really want to do well for this club."
The Brazilian defender joins the Galaxy after struggling to lock down a starting position for the Rojiblancos this season. Pushed down in the depth chart by the arrivals of Rauwshan McKenzie and John Alexander Valencia, Lopes failed to make a single appearance in 2012 after making eight appearances for the club last season.
Although Lopes failed to lock down a spot with Chivas this season, the hulking Brazilian believes that he can become a regular contributor for the defending MLS Cup Champions.
"It's a very good team with very good people and they have players with great recognition world wide," said Lopes on Thursday.”I swear to you, I’m happy. I only hope to do my best so I can play."
LEONARDO RETURN DELAYED
While the Galaxy may have added Lopes, it appears that the the defending MLS Cup Champions will continue to be without the services of his Brazilian countryman Leonardo.
Since tearing his anterior and lateral cruciate ligaments in his right knee back last April, the Brazilian centerback has undergone an extensive rehabilitation process that the Galaxy believed would allow him to return to full fitness by March. However, Leonardo's rehab has gone slower than the club previously expected.
"We're a little behind with Leonardo coming back. We thought that he was going to be ready in March, but he's going to need a little bit more time," said head coach Bruce Arena. "He's started training, he's trained this week with the team, which is the first time. He's going to need more time."
No timetable has been set for Leonardo's return, but Arena affirmed on Thursday that the club will continue to be patient with the centerback.
"His initial rehab in Brazil didn't go as well as expected so he needed another surgery in November to remove scar tissue. He's been behind a little bit, in the case of Leonardo, he's a player that if he gets back to where he was, then we got a good young centerback in the league," said Arena. "We have under contract now, but sometime you have to do things for the long-term and I think Lopes is a solution for the short-term."
BECKHAM READY TO FACE PORTLAND?
After missing the Galaxy's 1-0 defeat to Sporting Kansas City last week, David Beckham believes that he's ready to return on the field this week for the Galaxy's match against the reeling Portland Timbers.
Beckham was ruled out of last Saturday's match due to back spasms, but the Englishman confirmed after the club's training session on Thursday that it was a hamstring issue that kept him out of the clash against SKC.
"I'm feeling good, a lot better than I was. It is still a little bit tight, but it shouldn't be an issue for this weekend," said Beckham. "It tightened up a few weeks ago and I just felt it the morning after the game so I thought it was wise to get the treatment that I got and it feels better."
Beckham admits that the hamstring tightness played a factor in his much-ballyhooed halftime substitution in the club's 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution on March 31st. But regardless of the Galaxy's past struggles, the Englishman believes that it's time for the defending MLS Cup champions to turn their season around.
"We've not done well in games and not even looked like winning games," said Beckham. "I think that it's time now to show as a team and individuals the character that we've got and that we've shown over the last few weeks because so far this season, we've not seen that."
BUDDLE LOOKING TO END STRUGGLES
Another player who has struggled this season for the Galaxy has been forward Edson Buddle, who was brought in during the preseason to serve as an attacking compliment to Irish forward Robbie Keane.
In six appearances this season, in both MLS and CONCACAF Champions League play, Buddle has registered just a single goal and has yet to form a fruitful partnership with the Irishman. The lowest point came last Saturday against Sporting when the club failed to register a shot on goal in the 1-0.
Eager to return to winning ways against Portland, Buddle believes that the club's display against Sporting was a source of motivation–not just for himself, but the entire team.
"Absolutely, it's motivating. It's not good to come off the field and feel like you didn't participate offensively, I'm doing a lot of little things to help the team, but as a forward I like to score goals and that keeps me motivated when I'm not," said Buddle. "I love LA and the people here, I just want to fight as hard as possible for them and myself and make sure that it's worth their while."