CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's midfield conundrum seems a whole lot simpler following Mika Vayrynen's superb debut off the bench Sunday in Portland.
Head coach Bruce Arena still has other options, but the Finnish veteran, signed after a brief trial during LA's preseason European trip last month, certainly impressed during his half-hour stint in the 2-2 draw with the Timbers.
He looked good on the ball, spraying passes as the Galaxy took charge of a tight encounter, and proved a tenacious defender, qualities Marcelo Sarvas provided from the middle before he was dealt to Colorado in January.
“[We liked] his passing, his movement,” Arena said following Tuesday's training session at StubHub Center. “We like to pass the ball and pass it quickly and get it to the right guys. I think he's pretty good at that.
“Still early with us, and it's going to take him some time, but I thought his first showing was real good.”
It's what the Galaxy hoped for after signing Vayrynen, 33, who played for PSV Eindhoven and Heerenveen in Holland and Leeds United in England and had for years been interested in coming to MLS.
“His name was brought to our attention,” Arena said. “We explored his background, felt he was a player we'd have interest in, and we brought him into camp in Ireland.”
Vayrynen, whose contract with HJK Helsinki had expired at the start of 2015, made a substitute appearance in LA's friendly loss to Hammarby in Stockholm, then started – and scored the lone goal – in the exhibition against Shamrock Rovers in Dublin.
His signing was announced on March 6, shortly after he had joined the camp in Carson. He played in a 60-minute scrimmage last week, with those who didn't see action in the opener facing the Galaxy II reserve team, and might have been LA's best performer in 28 minutes of action in Portland.
“I'm pretty satisfied with the way I came in,” said Vayrynen, who displayed uncommon vision. “Had a lot of touches on the ball and kept the ball moving, but the other guys made it easy for me. They were always in a good position, and it was easy for me to just pass the ball and go from there.
“Maybe [vision is] the one big part in my game. You know, I'm not maybe the fastest guy in the team, so you have to have the vision and you have to be able to anticipate what's happening in the next situation.”
His new teammates are certainly impressed.
“He's a very smart player, very experienced player,” said LA’s Swedish winger Stefan Ishizaki, who had seen Vayrynen play during the Finn's decade in Holland and with Finland's national team. “Good passer, and he has good vision. Good technique, too. He's a great player. He'll be good for us.”
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Kenney Walker and Baggio Husidic, who got the starts next to Juninho in the first two games, also are battling for time in central midfield before Steven Gerrard lays claim to the starting role when he arrives in July.
Vayrynen, whose wife and two young sons are due to join him early next week, said he'd wanted to “play the last couple of years of my career” in America and is ecstatic that it's happening.
“Obviously, since [David] Beckham was here, everybody started talking about MLS a little bit more, and I heard a lot of good things about the competition from [former MLS players in Europe],” Väyrynen said. “The last two years, I really wanted to come here. ... I wasn't expecting to come to LA Galaxy – and once I heard about the camp [in Dublin] and from them this might be a possibility, I was very excited.
“If you want to come to MLS, this is the club where you want to end up.”