Turns out David Beckham isn't the only Galaxy player leaving L.A. after the team's recent MLS Cup victory.
Juninho, who had a successful two-year run playing beside Beckham in the central midfield, has signed a three-year deal to return to Sao Paulo in his native Brazil.
An MLS All-Star last summer, the 22-year-old Juninho started 30 MLS games and scored four times -- with three of those goals winning games.
Meanwhile, the Paris daily Le Parisien says it has confirmed what has long been rumored, namely that Beckham will sign with French club Paris Saint-Germain after his five-year contract with the Galaxy officially expires on New Year's Eve.
The paper said the former English team captain, who turns 37 in May, has agreed in principle to an 18-month deal worth slightly more than $1 million a month. The contract also contains a potentially lucrative merchandising agreement.
However, a spokesman at Simon Fuller's company XIX Entertainment, which represents Beckham, says the reports are premature. "No agreement has been reached with any club yet; talks of a deal are premature. David has yet to make a final decision on his future," the spokesman said.
David Beckham isn't saying -- at least, not yet. But anyone reading the tea leaves would have to concede that it does not look good for the Galaxy.
Beckham's five-year, $32.5-million contract with the MLS team expires Dec. 31, and in the run-up to that Beckham has received inquiries from clubs all over the world. None, however, has been as persistent at the French team Paris Saint-Germain. Media reports in France this week quoted unidentified people affiliated with the club as saying that a deal with the former England captain was "95% complete."
The team's oil-rich Qatari owners reportedly are offering Beckham just more than $1 million a month for 18 months. The Galaxy can't match that cash, but in the past the team and Major League Soccer have dangled a possible ownership stake in a future MLS franchise, a deal that could be sweetened with an executive position with AEG, the company that owns the Galaxy.
It has become commonplace for the president to place a congratulatory phone call to professional and college teams when they win a national championship. But apparently it took the first soccer dad in chief a little while longer to get around to calling the Galaxy after the team's 1-0 win over Houston in Major League Soccer's final Nov. 20.
But better later than never.
President Barack Obama spoke Tuesday with Coach Bruce Arena, whose team is on an Asia-Pacific tour, congratulating him on his third MLS title and inviting the team to the White House, according to the president's press secretary. Obama, who played soccer as a boy in Indonesia, also told Arena that the Galaxy's success inspired many young soccer players, including the president's own daughters, Sasha and Malia, who play the sport.
Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who played in two World Cups for his native Ivory Coast, is apparently on the Galaxy's radar as a possible replacement for David Beckham, whose five-year contract with the Major League Soccer club runs out Dec. 31.
Drogba, 33, has turned down a one-year extension to remain with Chelsea in the English Premier League and his agent, Thierno Seydi, told Goal.com that "L.A. Galaxy are a possibility, among many others."
Michael Roth, a spokesman for AEG, the entertainment company that owns the Galaxy, said Tuesday that his group "certainly will not comment on rumors."
But "we're always looking for other players," he said, adding that talks about a contract extension with Beckham had not produced a deal. Beckham's deal paid him an MLS-record $32.5 million.
The Galaxy, with Beckham in tow, are currently on a three-game international tour of Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia. Beckham has said he will announce his next move when the team returns to Southern California.
The Galaxy, however, may not be Drogba's only suitor. He has also been linked to Russia's Anzhi Makhachkala, although Seydi said he has not received an offer from the club.
"At Didier's age he has nothing left to prove as a player," Seydi told Goal.com. "He'll go where he is offered the most money. It could be the United States, Russia, Qatar or somewhere else in Asia."
Photo: Wolverhampton's Roger Johnson, right, attempts to block the shot from Chelsea's Didier Drogba during an English Premier League soccer match on Nov. 26, 2011. Credit: Dominic Lipinski / Associated Press.
A broken forearm cost Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts several starts this season. And now it has cost him his job, as the Galaxy sent him to the expansion Montreal Impact on Monday in exchange for allocation money.
Major League Soccer’s keeper of the year in 2010 and a two-time MLS All-Star, Ricketts, 34, was limited to 15 games last season, missing two months after breaking his arm against San Jose in late June. Josh Saunders stepped in and played well enough to make Ricketts expendable, notching eight shutouts in 18 starts and posting a goals-against average of 0.93.
Only Ricketts, with a GAA of 0.92 in 15 starts, had a better mark among MLS keepers.
Allocation money can be used to sign players or allocate against their contracts to keep teams under the league-mandated salary cap, which was $2.675 million in 2011.
The Galaxy, Major League Soccer's newly crowned champion, escaped Wednesday's expansion draft unscathed but Chivas USA wasn't so lucky, losing defender Zarek Valentin to the Montreal Impact.
Valentin was the second player selected behind Houston Dynamo forward and team captain Brian Ching.
Ten players were selected in the draft from a pool of 272 players. Each team was allowed to protect 11 players from its 2011 roster.
Later in the day Chivas replaced Valentin by sending forward Justin Braun and defensive midfielder Gerson Mayen to Montreal for former Seattle defender James Riley, the Impact's ninth selection in the draft. Mayen, who played high school soccer at Manuel Arts, was on loan to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers last season and hasn't played in MLS since 2010. He has also played for the Salvadoran national team.
The Impact, the 19th MLS club, will begin play next spring.
He came, he saw and finally on Sunday, David Beckham conquered U.S. soccer, teaming with Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane to give the Galaxy a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer’s Cup final before a soggy sell-out crowd of 30,281 at Home Depot Center in Carson.
The championship, which came on Donovan’s goal in the 72nd minute, was the third for the Galaxy and their first since 2005. And it gave Coach Bruce Arena a league-record three titles.
But it may have been most important for Beckham, who needed a title to add an exclamation point to his controversial and transformative five years in MLS –- years in which the former captain of the English national team brought the Galaxy unprecedented levels of credibility and cash yet couldn’t bring them a title.
Now, however, he’s a triple-crown winner, with his MLS championship joining those won with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
And it was Beckham who set up the game’s only goal, teaming with the oldest members of the team.
The play started with Beckham heading the ball ahead to Keane in the penalty box. Donovan, one of just three players remaining from the Galaxy’s last championship team, was trailing the play and took a touch pass from Keane to the left of the goal, then managed to curl a right-footed chip shot just inside the post to the far side.
The Galaxy entered the MLS Cup final having won more games –- in both the regular season and the playoffs -- over the last three seasons than any team. Until Sunday they had never won their final one.
And it was fitting that the drought ended on the Galaxy’s rain-soaked home pitch, where the team hasn’t lost since last year’s Western Conference final.
The road the Galaxy took to redemption was not an easy one, rutted by a season-long series of injuries that sidelined every starter for at least one match. And they remained a team in transition until mid August, when they added forward Keane, giving them the scoring threat they lacked up front.
Tellingly the Galaxy hasn’t lost a match Keane has played in.
The rain that pelted Southern California all day stopped shortly before kickoff but returned briefly midway through the first half.
By then the Galaxy had squandered three good scoring opportunities with the slick turf possibly costing them a goal on the final one.
Major League Soccer's Board of Governors this weekend approved a new competition format for 2012, expanding the conference finals to a two-game, home-and-away series determined by aggregate goals and awarding home-field advantage in the MLS Cup to the finalist that finishes with the best regular-season record.
“The MLS Cup playoff format in 2012 gives increased reward to clubs that fare well in the regular season and removes the possibility of clubs winning the opposite conference championship,” MLS Executiuve Vice President Nelson Rodriguez said. “Having a competitively determined site for MLS Cup is one of the most exciting improvements our Board of Governors has adopted. We believe this provides every club a tremendous incentive during our regular season and ensures a festive and boisterous setting for our championship game.”
In its first 16 seasons, MLS awarded the site of its Cup final ahead of the season, similar to how the NFL determines the site for the Super Bowl. Just three times in that span -- including this season -- has a Cup finalist wound up playing the game at home. Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena, whose team has finished with the best regular-season record each of the last two seasons, was among those who criticized the old MLS playoff format for failing to sufficiently reward teams that play well during the regular season.
Five teams from each conference will advance to the playoffs with fourth- and fifth-place finishers meeting in a one-game playoff to determine which will advance to the two-game conference semifinals. That series will be determined by aggregate goals. And in a break from previous years, the 2012 conference finals will also be a two-game, aggregate-goal series.
With the addition of the expansion Montreal Impact next season, MLS will field 19 teams in 2012, 10 in the Eastern Conference and the same nine that competed this season in the West. Each team will play 34 games, an equal number against conference foes and one game each against teams from outside their conference.
Photo: Galaxy forward Robbie Keane celebrates his goal against Real Salt Lake with midfielder David Beckham (23) and defender Todd Dunivant in the second half of the MLS Western Conference championship game at Home Depot Center two weeks ago. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Reuters
The Major League Soccer Cup final on Sunday could be David Beckham's last game in a Galaxy uniform at the Home Depot Center and he doesn't plan on missing it.
So after training Saturday for the first time in three days, Beckham pronounced himself ready despite lingering issues with his back and hamstring.
"I'm feeling good. It was good to be back out there with the guys," said Beckham, who has assisted on goals in each of the Galaxy's three postseason wins. "We're ready as a team.
"My body feels great so it shouldn't be a problem, shouldn't be an issue. Obviously I've had issues with my back all season. But I was able to train today and came through it with no problem. So it's all good."
Beckham, who has been receiving treatment from the team's medical staff, seemed to move easily through a light hourlong practice on the Home Depot field Saturday.
"He's doing fine. He has no problem," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said of Beckham. "We're looking forward to playing."
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham missed training for a second consecutive day Friday in preparation for Sunday's Major League Soccer Cup final against the Houston Dynamo at the Home Depot Center.
The team continues to explain Beckham's absence by saying the league's comeback player of the year has a minor cold, but sources close to the Beckham camp say he's dealing with a slight hamstring issue.
Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said Beckham is expected to train Saturday.