CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy aren't prepared to say they will sign Swedish national-teamer Christian Wilhelmsson, but they're certainly talking as if he's in their plans.
The veteran winger played about an hour in his LA debut on Tuesday, a 2-0 Reserve League loss at San Jose, and received strong marks from reserve coach Curt Onalfo after continually stretching the Earthquakes defense in the first half.
Wilhelmsson, who started training last week with the Galaxy, scored a goal but it was waved off by one of four offside calls against him, all of them “controversial,” according to Onalfo.
“For him, it's about getting minutes and utilizing this as an opportunity to advance ...,” Onalfo said in a teleconference following the game. “I thought he created some things. He's a true wide player, so he got into situations that were good for our team. There were four controversial offside calls we didn't think were offside that would have turned the terms of the game.
“You can tell he has a lot of qualities and he's a good and very clever wide player.”
Back in Southern California, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told MLSsoccer.com he was impressed by Wilhelmsson.
“He's an experienced player who can play wide in the midfield, which I think we're a little short of ... and he wants to be here,” Arena said following a training session at the Home Depot Center.
Wilhelmsson, 32, who spent the past four years in the Middle East, told Swedish website fotbollskanalen.se over the weekend that he has signed a contract through January that has options for another three years, choosing an LA offer over possibilities in Russia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
“[Major League Soccer] is a league on the rise,” he said. “It's fun to try something new, and also all that implies, of staying in Los Angeles. ... There were bids with more money, but there were other things that played into this. Like to play with [David] Beckham and [Robbie] Keane. I like it already incredibly well with the group.”
The Galaxy staff also talks as if he's staying.
“He's got a lot of things that open your eyes when you want to add a player,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan told MLSsoccer.com. “For instance, he's got experience. He's a little bit older, he's played at really big clubs and he's played for his national team. So when you talk about experience, that's a huge advantage.
“Positionally for us, should we sign him, he'll add something that we really haven't counted on a lot since I've been here, and that's wide play. Real wide play. He's a legitimate wide guy. When you look at the check boxes of what you look for, I think his box is checked to the point where we had to be serious about trying to add a guy like him. And he seems like a good guy and he's been around, so [he] would adapt quickly, I think. ... If and when we sign him, he's going to be a good addition.”