Alexi Lalas, perhaps the most recognizable soccer player in America after Mia Hamm and Cobi Jones, is ending his retirement and will join the Galaxy for the 2001 Major League Soccer season.
No contract has yet been signed between MLS and the veteran defender, but Lalas said Thursday that he had decided to end his one-year hiatus from the game.
"Everything looks good right now," said Lalas, who followed the remark by characteristically taking a good-natured swipe at the league.
"Obviously, with MLS you never really know how things get done, but putting together a contract is relatively simple, compared to a lot of other stuff that's going on around the league."
The addition of Lalas will strengthen the Galaxy's defense at a time when the back line needs it most. Robin Fraser is sidelined by injury, Greg Vanney is contemplating a move to Spain, and on Thursday Coach Sigi Schmid received more bad news.
Danny Califf, one of the best rookies in MLS in 2000 and a standout player at the Sydney Olympics, underwent surgery at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach on Thursday afternoon after injuring himself in a domestic accident.
Califf broke his nose, leaving in doubt his participation in the eight-team CONCACAF Champions Cup next week.
"It was just an accident or something that happened at home," Schmid said before the surgery. "I'm not quite sure exactly what happened. He's going to have surgery this afternoon for his nose. We're hoping it's just his nose and not the orbit of his eye in any way. If that's the case, there's a good chance for him to come back [and play next week]."
A Galaxy spokesman said he did not want to speculate on how the accident occurred until he had spoken to Califf.
Lalas, meanwhile, definitely will be playing in the Champions Cup. The reason he is "unretiring" and giving up his television career to return to the playing field, he said, is because he misses the game.
"It was a wonderful year, and regardless if I played again or didn't play again, I'm happy," he said. "It was the right thing for me to do at the time and I don't regret it for a second.
"I went to the Olympics and basically finished up all the television stuff that I was doing. I went out and started training with L.A. and just really enjoyed myself. I was lucky in that Sigi was real accommodating and let me come out a lot."
The MLS season begins April 7, and Lalas, who turns 31 in June, has until then to earn a starting spot in a defense that traditionally has been one of the strongest in the league.
"Sigi's been very, very honest with me and I've been honest with him," Lalas said. "I know you can't just sort of come back in [as a starter] after being gone for this long. It comes back very slowly. The actual physical part of the game, my fitness and that sort of stuff, isn't a problem. That comes back relatively easily.
"It's much more the thinking and the quickness of thought and the touch that takes a lot longer to come back. It's coming back slowly and at times it can be frustrating, but even through the frustration and the ups and downs right now, it's still fun.
"It's definitely going to take some time and I told Sigi, 'If I play for you, I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can to get to a point where I earn a starting position.' "
Lalas' former MLS teammates are welcoming his return, but Lalas said they might have an ulterior motive, involving his season as an analyst and commentator on the "MLS ExtraTime" show on ESPN2.
"It's been great, actually," he said. "Most of the players have been so positive and [have been] saying, 'It's about time you came out of the wilderness and got back,' and that's been nice. I think mostly it's because they want their chance to get their licks in after the verbal beatings that I gave them [on TV] this past year.
"Players have long memories. They'll bring up something that I possibly said that had some sort of negative connotation to it and run their studs right through my shin at the first touch of the ball, so that will be wonderful."
The Galaxy called up three minor league players to strengthen its roster for next week's Champions Cup tournament. Added were San Diego Flash midfielder Kevin Legg, Orange County Wave forward Sheldon Thomas and Seattle Sounder defender Craig Waibel.