GALAXY: Birchall joins the Crew

Former Galaxy midfielder Chris Birchall is back in Major League Soccer after signing a multi-year contract with the Columbus Crew, the team announced Monday.

Birchall, 28, a rugged, energetic holding midfielder, spent three seasons with the Galaxy, starting 46 games in 57 league appearances with a goal and an assist. He also made nine playoff appearances, seeing time in all four postseason games last year -- memorably stepping in for suspended Juninho to clamp down New York's midfield in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinals.

He also played in four CONCACAF Champions League and one U.S. Open Cup game last year.

Birchall, a Trinidad & Tobago national-teamer, departed during the offseason to pursue opportunities at home in England, but he was hamstrung by sanctions preventing his former club Port Vale from signing new players. By the time he told Galaxy coach Bruce Arena that he was interested in returning, L.A. had already made roster moves to replace him.

Because his contract expired and the Galaxy did not offer him a new pact, they did not retain his rights within MLS.