Italian veteran Chiellini excited to join young LAFC roster
By JOE REEDY
LOS ANGELES (AP) Georgio Chiellini is hoping Los Angeles FC's young roster can help him at least partially rediscover the fountain of youth.
In return, the veteran Italian defender looks to help the club capture its first Major League Soccer championship.
"I would say that LAFC is the perfect team for me because the team is full of young players. I think they can help me," the 37-year old Chiellini said Wednesday during his introductory press conference at Banc of California Stadium. "Surely it's impossible for me to have the same physical characteristic like 10 years ago, but I can bring also something to them, and we have to create a good mix with experience and enthusiasm with younger players in order to become a winner."
LAFC went into Wednesday night's match against FC Dallas with the league's best record at 10-3-3. LAFC won the Supporters Shield as the league's top team in the regular season in 2019, but has not had postseason success. It missed the playoffs for the first time last year.
"The team is fantastic," Chiellini said. "As I said before, I don't have to change something or to bring something special. Just to add what I am and hope to continue in this way because we are at the top and we have to finish at the top, but it's a long trip."
Chiellini had been at Juventus since 2005, capturing nine Serie A and five Coppa Italia titles. He also played his final match June 1 for Italy's national team.
Chiellini said talks about a potential move stateside began last year, but didn't accelerate until March after Italy failed to quality for this year's World Cup.
For a league where most of the big signings are geared toward young, attacking forwards, the addition of Chiellini goes against the grain, but he also said something that is commonly said in American football.
"I read in the U.S. that the forwards, that the attackers sell tickets, that the defense win the league. Then this is my goal and my target," he said.
Chiellini will give LAFC a veteran presence at center back. Eddie Segura has not played this season due to a knee injury and the position has been split between Jesus Murillo and Mamadou Fall.
Chiellini will be eligible to make his LAFC debut after the secondary transfer window opens July 7. The club's first match after the window opens is against archrival LA Galaxy on July 8.
Gareth Bale could also make his debut in the rivalry game dubbed El Trafico by the fans of both clubs, but his immigration paperwork is still being processed.
The additions of Chiellini and Bale, along with re-signing 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela, should keep LAFC among the league's top clubs the rest of the season. But Vela said Tuesday plenty of work remains to be done.
"It doesn't matter how many years you've played in some place," Vela said. "You have to put in the effort, and you have to do what is best for the team. Now we have a lot of talent coming in, so we just have to figure out what's best for the team, put it in and go for it. It's the only way we're going to win a trophy."
More AP MLS: https://apnews.com/hub/major-league-soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated June 29, 2022