CARSON, Calif. — Saturday will be a momentous day in LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho’s life, but soccer won’t have anything to do with it.
When the Galaxy host Toronto FC, Juninho will be in his native São Paulo for his wedding. Juninho left Los Angeles on Thursday to head back home for the ceremony. Thus, he won’t be in uniform for the match (10:30 p.m. ET; watch LIVE online).
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said the timing may not have been ideal, but he wasn’t going to stand in the way of Juninho or his wife-to-be.
“That’s life, you know. What are you going to do?” Arena shrugged. “I think brides in Brazil like June weddings as well.”
Missing Juninho may normally be a tough situation. After all, the Brazilian has been a fixture in the Galaxy’s midfield and has been one of the most important players on the squad. But he is not irreplaceable.
Arena has not played the same four players in the middle of the field throughout the season, rotating through players such as Mike Magee, Paolo Cardozo, Michael Stephens and Chris Birchall. Last week against D.C. United, Juninho sprained his ankle and was replaced by Jovan Kirovski at the intermission.
“We’ve said all the way throughout the season that we’re going to have to go without players for certain games," David Beckham said. "It’s just another one of these games, but we’ve got players who can come in and play the same sort of way Juni plays. We just have to deal with what we’ve got and we got a great squad of players so we should be fine.”
While Juninho has done well to win over teammates both on and off the field since joining the Galaxy in the 2010 preseason, he won’t have any of his MLS 'mates in attendance at the wedding.
“Unfortunately, we all didn’t get invites," Beckham said. “I was looking forward to a trip to Brazil. It would have been nice. But I don’t think Bruce would have been happy.”
Juninho won’t be the only regular absent from the Toronto FC match as Landon Donovan will be suiting up for the US on the other side of the country.
Without Donovan to take the pressure off David Beckham against D.C. United, the going was rather tight in the midfield. Beckham played in a deep position during that match, and afterward Arena said it was perhaps too deep for the team’s key playmaker.
Beckham said his positioning was part purposeful, part reaction to DC’s marking.
“They had two men on me, and I was trying to lose them and trying to create space for other players," Beckham said. "When you man-mark like that, it’s difficult to get away and you have to create the space for the team. It was tough for me to get on the ball. That’s why I was dropping as much as I did — and it was probably too much in the game.”
He insisted he wouldn’t play as deep against Toronto.
“I expect the attention in games and things like that, but it just didn’t work out in that game,” Beckham said. “We’re fitter as a team. We’ve had a full week’s training, so hopefully we can perform better.”
Welcome back, Gordo
Longtime Galaxy forward Alan Gordon, now with Toronto FC, has finally recovered from a groin injury and could make his MLS return on Saturday.
Beckham was not surprised that Gordon was ruled fit to play in the days leading up to the match.
“Of course he has," Beckham said. "He was just resting the last two weeks so he can play against us."
Gordon played for the Galaxy from 2004-10 but was traded to Chivas USA last summer. He has already made his presence felt against LA as he scored for the Goats in their 2-1 loss to the Galaxy on Oct. 3.
“It’s great to see Gordo back,” Beckham said. “He was a good friend of mine when he was with the club and still is now. It’s great to see him back here. He’s scored some good goals and he’s a great guy.”
While Beckham and Gordon may be friendly off the field, when the two line up against one another, all bets are off.
“I hope our fans give him a little bit of abuse,” he said. “I’m sure one of us will kick him, but we’ll friends after the game.”
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