Fans line up for dos San­tos at LA Gal­axy prac­tice

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Some 50 fans, many wear­ing Gio­vani dos San­tos’ Mex­i­can na­tional team jersey, gath­ered to see the 26-year-old be­fore and af­ter his sec­ond prac­tice with the Gal­axy on Tues­day.

They chanted his name, held up signs wel­com­ing him to Los An­ge­les and clam­ored for au­to­graphs and pic­tures.

The media con­tin­gent was just as large and fren­zied for dos San­tos’ first news con­fer­ence, which opened with a state­ment by U.S. Con­gress­man Xavier Be­cerra, who rep­re­sents the dis­trict that in­cludes down­town Los An­ge­les.

He joked he wasn’t ex­actly sure why he was there.

Here’s why: Dos San­tos gives the Gal­axy and Ma­jor League Soc­cer a le­git­i­mate Mex­i­can su­per­star ca­pa­ble of con­nect­ing with the re­gion’s siz­able Mex­i­can im­mi­grant and Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion.

“This is a big club. We have big play­ers and I have come here to win, and I’m re­ally ex­cited to be here in Los An­ge­les,” said dos San­tos, who spoke in both English and Span­ish. “I’m very proud of be­ing Mex­i­can. It is go­ing to be great to play here with my Mex­i­can fans here in Los An­ge­les, and I hope I can rep­re­sent very well my Mex­i­can fans, all my Mex­i­can peo­ple.”

Gal­axy pres­i­dent Chris Klein ac­knowl­edged that the pres­ence of dos San­tos -- who made his name scor­ing in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup fi­nal at the Rose Bowl — gives the club new com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties on both sides of the bor­der. But Klein was more con­cerned with what it can do for the rep­u­ta­tion of the Gal­axy and MLS.

The league has long been re- garded as the last stop be­fore re­tire­ment for in­ter­na­tional stars.

But dos San­tos joins un­der the age of 30 and in the prime of his ca­reer af­ter stints at elite clubs such as Barcelona and Tot­ten­ham. Just two sea­sons re­moved from scor­ing 12 goals in 34 ap­pear­ances for Vil­lar­real in Spain’s La Liga, dos San­tos was not lack­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties in Europe but chose the Gal­axy in the cul­mi­na­tion of a fouryear courtship that re­ally got se­ri­ous in 2013.

“In football, you never know what can hap­pen,” dos San­tos said. “Tim­ing is im­por­tant for any move, and for me it was the right mo­ment to come here in the prime of my ca­reer. I’m ready to take that chal­lenge.”

Dos San­tos’ de­ci­sion re­flects ef­forts “to es­tab­lish that this is a league of choice and we are the club of choice for play­ers to come in the prime of their ca­reer, and so we’re look­ing for­ward to see how Gio­vani does,” Klein said. The most im­por­tant goal for dos San­tos, how­ever, is to help the Gal­axy con­tinue its suc­cess on the field.

The Gal­axy have won three of the last four MLS Cups, and are “aim­ing for some­thing big­ger,” Klein said, both do­mes­ti­cally and in the CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons League.

“We want to set the stan­dard for MLS like we’ve done so many times be­fore,” Klein said. “We want to win ev­ery­thing that there is out there.”

Dos San­tos will make his U.S. de­but against Cen­tral FC of Trinidad and Tobago in the CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons League on Thurs­day, with his MLS de­but set to come against the Seat­tle Sounders on Sun­day.

While man­ager Bruce Arena did not spec­ify where ex­actly dos San­tos will line up, Arena was quick to note that it would def­i­nitely be “close to goal.” Whether he op­er­ates along­side or be­hind for­ward Rob­bie Keane or in the mid­field, get­ting con­sis­tent play from dos San­tos is the main ob­jec­tive for Arena. Dos San­tos fol­lowed up his break­through 2013-14 cam­paign by scor­ing just one goal in 27 league games last sea­son.

“I want him to be a great player for the L.A. Gal­axy, for Mexico, but maybe not in Oc­to­ber when they play in the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup (play­off),” Arena joked.

AP

Los An­ge­les Gal­axy for­ward Gio­vani dos San­tos signs au­to­graphs af­ter his first train­ing with the MLS soc­cer team in Car­son, Cal­i­for­nia, Tues­day, Aug. 4.

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