Dan Kennedy calls return to Southern California with LA Galaxy "a bit surreal"

There have been murmurs for months that Dan Kennedy would be returning to Southern California for the 2016 MLS campaign, and the LA Galaxy made it official Tuesday, acquiring the 33-year-old goalkeeper from FC Dallas for a pair of 2017 SuperDraft selections.

It's been in the works since Dallas were eliminated last month in the Western Conference Championship, with a push from Kennedy, an Orange County native who starred at UC Santa Barbara before stepping into the nets for Chivas USA.

“It's a bit surreal. We're extremely excited ...,” Kennedy told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “We went into FC Dallas with high hopes, high expectations, and it doesn't always go as planned. Fortunately for Stephanie and I, my wife and I, we had this opportunity to come back to LA, and we were willing to do everything we could on our part to make this happen, make this work.”

He said he's ecstatic “to have the Galaxy want me to be a part” of their club, the team he cheered on in the league's early years. He'd hoped to join the MLS powerhouse, which for a decade shared its StubHub Center home with Chivas, when the Goats were disbanded following the 2014 season.

“When everything happened last year at Chivas and we went through the dispersal draft, I made a push to try to get to LA,” said Kennedy, the Goats' captain and their No. 1 goalkeeper from 2011 through their final games. “That didn't work out, and just how things played out this past season with Dallas, I kind of had a feeling that there may be an opportunity for me to leave, for the team to let me go. So we were just hopeful the Galaxy may be in need, and we just pursued all that right there once the season finished up. It all moved pretty quickly.”

The Galaxy had a need, after declining options on No. 1 goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and backups Brian Perk and Andrew Wolverton, and Kennedy had a new home. He's thankful FC Dallas, which took him with the first pick in the Chivas dispersal draft, were willing to work with him.

Stephanie Kennedy works in Southern California, and the move will enable the couple to be nearer their families, a big deal since their son, Archer, was born three months ago.

Kennedy made 16 starts for FC Dallas this year but lost his job to 20-year-old Jesse Gonzalez after he suffered a knee injury in mid-August. He returned to the field in September but didn't play again for the team.

“Once the season ended, I spoke to Dallas first – Oscar [Pareja, the head coach] and Fernando [Clavijo, the technical director] – and just kind of wanted to feel them out and see where they were at,” Kennedy said. “And, honestly, they were just fantastic with understanding the position that I was in and the wants and needs of me, my wife and newborn son, and they were graceful enough not to hold anything against me and do the deal that made more sense for me.

“I was very, very lucky to get traded in conference to LA. It doesn't always work out that way.”

MLS's debut season kicked off when Kennedy, who grew up in Yorba Linda, was 13 years old, and “when I really envisioned playing pro soccer, it was while I was watching [former Galaxy star] Kevin Hartman do his thing in goal.”

Kennedy was drafted in 2005 by Chivas, the Galaxy's SuperClasico rival, but played a season in the USL with the Puerto Rico Islanders – he was the league's Rookie of the Year – and another in Chile with Municipal Iquique before joining the MLS club in 2008. He captained the Goats in 2013 and much of 2014, difficult years for a team that was at or near the bottom of the standings in its final five seasons.

“Chivas treated me as well as any team ... but the time I put in there with that club, I suffered with that club,” Kennedy said. “I don't think that plan worked out how anybody envisioned, but I was part of it and [did all I could] to make the most of that opportunity, for the fans that supported us.

“I've already had some fans reach out to me – some Chivas fans, that I'm sure it's definitely a little bittersweet for them – but the great thing is they've all said so far that they wish me the best of luck. That's the kind of quality people we had supporting us there.”

Kennedy said he was excited to work with Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and goalkeeper coach Matt Reis and welcomed the opportunity to play for a club with championship aspirations.

“I think everybody understood the position I was in when I was at Chivas. We went through hard times, and our expectations were never championships,” he said. “And that was the refreshing thing about going to Dallas, was talking about that again, and now coming to LA, and that is the expectation. ...

“I'm anxious to get started, to be honest with you. Things didn't go as I'd planned last season, so I'm ready to get back out there and just kind of put that behind me. I feel good about it. I don't think I've been looking forward to preseason this much in a long time.”