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Galaxy fall to Real Salt Lake as Juninho returns to the field

February 9, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) Los Angeles Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. - The LA Galaxy took part in their first preseason match against MLS competition on Friday afternoon, falling 1-0 to Real Salt Lake.

The match was marred by wet and windy conditions that caused both teams to struggle to generate offense early on. However, a stellar strike from RSL midfielder Ned Grabavoy in the 27th minute of play held up as the game's only goal.

LA are now 2-1-0 in three preseason games this year.

"We're moving forward, the game was not very good on either side, but that's life," said head coach Bruce Arena. "Our passing wasn't particularly good, our movement wasn't particularly good...It wasn't that pleasant to watch today, but that's life and its part of the way we're moving forward in the preseason."

During the second half, a pair of Galaxy midfielders made their preseason debut as Michael Stephens and Juninho participated in their first match of the new year. Stephens made his first appearance at the start of the second half as he replaced Hector Jimenez on the right side of midfield. Juninho came on two minutes later, replacing Marcelo Sarvas in the 63rd minute.

Stephens and Juninho were paired together in the center of the park with rookie Andy Riemer playing wide on the right and fellow rookie Greg Cochrane playing wide on the left. The appearance was Juninho's first with the club since signing a permanent, multi-year contract with the Galaxy in mid-January. He arrived in Southern California late last week and has been training with the rest of the squad all week.

When the Galaxy resume their preseason slate next Wednesday, the Brazilian midfielder is hopeful that he'll have a place in LA's starting XI for the first time this year.

"I played 30 minutes; it's different when you play with the younger guys because you run a lot. It was good though and I feel fine," Juninho told reporters after the match. "I'm still 87 percent [fit] and I hope I'm starting in the next game," said Juninho. "I need a little bit more time, but we'll see. I'll talk to Bruce and I'll talk to him for next game."

Count Arena among those impressed with the Brazilian and with LA's growth this preseason.

"It was good," said Arena of Juninho's brief showing. "All that stuff that we've talked about with moving the group forward it was fine."

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