CARSON, Calif. -- Bruce Arena perused his roster recently and, despite impressive depth – a second string side tonked the Puerto Rico Islanders 4-0 in the CONCACAF Champions League last week – decided the LA Galaxy could use more quality in the wide midfield areas.
So Arena, the head coach and GM of the Galaxy, signed Swedish international midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson for the home stretch of the MLS regular season and – a spot is almost assured – the playoffs.
"He's a player with a lot more experience playing in wide positions," Arena said, "He's comfortable playing there. I think that's something our team could use."
Landon Donovan added that Hector Jimenez is the only true winger in the squad.
"It just gives us an added element that maybe we haven't had as much," the LA Galaxy captain said.
"For a while we had Eddie Lewis and Chris Klein here, who were more typical wide players, but we've kind of gone away from that. Our style of play is a little bit different. But if you can have players that can provide that it's really helpful because you can't just clog the middle. … I think that's something that can be helpful down the stretch."
Wilhelmsson has 78 caps for Sweden and featured three times in Euro 2012. He played in a friendly against Brazil on Aug. 15, but other than that has rested since leaving Al Hilal in Saudi Arabia.
Arena indicated that the 32-year-old's fitness is as predicted, with match sharpness not expected for a couple weeks.
"I'm trying to build up," Wilhelmsson said of his shape. "It's not where it should be, but it's normal in the beginning. That's why I try very hard in training and before and after to get the level back. They're helping me and I'm on the right way."
He played in a reserve match on Tuesday. Arena said the former Anderlecht, Nantes, Roma, Bolton and Deportivo La Coruna midfielder is comfortable on both wings.
"I played mostly right, maybe," Wilhelmsson said. "The club mostly right and the national team left. It's not really matter. Sometimes it depends on the opponent."
The addition of Wilhelmsson will likely keep Donovan deployed as a striker, where he's turned out for the later stretch of the season. ("My guess would be I'll primarily be used up top," Donovan said.) Whatever the tactical alignment, Wilhelmsson's pedigree should boost the reigning MLS Cup champion.
"His resume speaks for itself," Donovan said. "I think it's low risk and potentially really high reward for us."
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