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Longtime LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho retires, joins academy coaching staff

Fan favorite hangs up boots but will stick around club.

MLS Soccer - Los Angeles Galaxy v Philadelphia Union Photo: Shaun Clark/Getty Images

The LA Galaxy announced Tuesday midfielder Juninho has retired. The Brazilian won three MLS Cups with the Galaxy, and finishes his career with 189 appearances, second among midfielders at the club to only Mauricio Cienfuegos’ 206.

“I am extremely proud of my career and all that I have accomplished, but it is time for me to step away from playing and move on to the next chapter,” said Juninho in a team statement. “I have been fortunate to play this game professionally for over 10 years and am grateful to all of my coaches, teammates and fans I have met along the way. Each of you have played a pivotal role in my life and I have formed friendships that will last forever. Thank you to São Paolo, Chicago Fire, Club Tijuana and especially the LA Galaxy – where I made the best memories of my career – for all your support. I am honored to represent Los Angeles for this club and help us capture three MLS Cups.”

The 31-year-old began his career with Brazilian power Sao Paulo, and while waiting to break through with the first team, went on loan to the Galaxy starting in 2010, where he made an immediate impact.

In 2011, he returned on loan to the Galaxy, and was the midfield anchor of the Supporters’ Shield-MLS Cup winners that year, part of a crop of promising young defensive midfielders in MLS.

After a third season on loan in 2012, Juninho finally made a permanent move to the club in 2013, and between 2011-15 he was ever-present in the lineup, a fixture who did the dirty work and unleashed the occasional bomb from distance.

After the 2015 season, Juninho was transferred to Club Tijuana, but he didn’t catch on in the same way and was loaned to the Chicago Fire in 2017. By that point, injuries seemed to have taken a toll, and he didn’t look the same out of the Galaxy white kit.

He did make a return in 2019, something fans hoped would lead to a resurgence in his game, but he only made two MLS regular-season appearances in his final season and injuries kept him out of the reckoning pretty much the whole season.

Now, with his playing career over, Juninho isn’t going anywhere. The Galaxy announced Wednesday he will join the club’s academy coaching staff, alongside fellow Brazilian and former Galaxy midfielder Marcelo Sarvas.

“I am honored to return to the LA Galaxy and be a part of developing our youth players on the Academy level,” said Juninho. “The LA Galaxy have given so much to me throughout my career and I am eager to continue to represent this club and invest in our future.”

“It is extremely exciting to join a club that has been so special to me,” said Sarvas. “The Galaxy are a club with rich history, unparalleled success and deep roots in Los Angeles and I look forward to helping cultivate talent in our region to help them become players of high quality and character.”

For a club with as much rich history as the Galaxy, it’s nice to see the club honoring a player like Juninho, who may be a few years distanced from the peak of his powers, but at his peak was a real unsung hero, and a total fan favorite. Congrats on a good career, and happy to hear you’re sticking around to produce the next generation of players.

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