Three Months After Joining Club, Swedish Midfielder Feeling Comfortable in LA
CARSON, Calif. - The MLS Cup Playoffs may be old hat for most of the LA Galaxy, but not for one of their newest members. And he's having the time of his life.
Christian Wilhelmsson, who signed with the Galaxy on Sept. 5 after having spent his entire career in Europe, playing in Sweden (his home country), Norway, Belgium, France, Italy, England and Spain as well as in the Middle East, having recently spent time in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, is soaking in the excitement of the club's postseason run. Heading into the second leg of the Western Conference Championship against Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday (6 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes, AM 1150, 1330 AM, LIVECHAT) at CenturyLink Field, Wilhelmsson wants to help extend LA's season one more game.
The Galaxy won the first leg of the Conference Championship 3-0 last Sunday at The Home Depot Center and Wilhelmsson, who assisted on Robbie Keane's second goal, said he is getting caught up in the moment "It's great," he said Thursday after training. "It feels a little bit extra; it feels like you get into the tournament phase of the league. Actually, I've enjoyed it a lot. We're having success as well, and that makes it even better of course."
Wilhelmsson said he watched MLS games, even some in the postseason, when he was abroad and always was curious to see what the playoffs were like up close.
Now he knows, and he's a big fan.
"You don't really know what it's like until you are here and see what kind of pressures and expectations are on the team," he said. "If you play in the (UEFA) Champions League or Europa League, they're kind of cup games, kind of similar games. We know these are knockout games, you play home and way. It's quite similar to that."
The bigger the stage the better, Wilhelmsson went on.
"I love big games," he said. "I love it when it comes down to this kind of ending. It's the same as the regular season when it's tight at the top and you have a chance to reach the Champions League or win the league.
"You enjoy those games."
It's also clear the 32-year-old with 78 Swedish national team caps to his credit enjoys being on the Galaxy, and vice versa. He originally trained with the club for less than a week before he signed. He scored in his first start, a 2-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 14, and has been solid in midfield ever since.
"He's fit in pretty well," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. "We've said a number of times the transition for a player from another country is always difficult. It takes some time.
"We expected it would take time. He's feeling comfortable now."
Right back Sean Franklin admitted he knew nothing about Wilhelmsson when he showed up in the locker room that fall day.
"I had no idea who he was," Franklin said with a grin. "I just knew he was from Sweden. I didn't even know what team he came from. I just knew we had a new player a new guy to our attack.
"It was like, "We got a new player. All right.' "
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