GALAXY: Birchall won't return in 2012

CARSON -- Chris Birchall, an honest, humble, hard-working midfielder who in the past 2½ seasons provided the Galaxy energy and depth -- and a little bit of bite -- won't be back this year. The Englishman, who had been pursuing options at home after his MLS contract expired, revealed the news in a post Monday on his Twitter account.

“Disappointed to say that I will not be returning to LA Galaxy,” Birchall tweeted. “I would like to thank everyone for a Superb 3years,fans exceptional!!Thankyou!”

The decision was not Birchall's, he revealed in a tweet to teammate Bryan Jordan. “Not what I wanted but will miss you all,” he posted.

Birchall, 27, who plays internationally for his mother's native Trinidad & Tobago, started 44 competitive games for L.A. the past two seasons and 50 in all after signing during the 2009 summer transfer window. The fan favorite primarily toiled in central midfield, although he also spelled Landon Donovan on the right side, and although he started the majority of league games in 2010-11, he wasn't considered a first-choice player.

When his contract ran out on Dec. 31, he informed the Galaxy he wanted to find a club in England but was interested in keeping his options with the Galaxy open. As L.A. has filled spots, the opportunity to return has narrowed, and last week's acquisition of former UCLA All-American Kyle Nakazawa in a trade from Philadelphia appears to have closed it.

“Our roster's getting full ...,” Arena said last month. “We've been talking to him on and off. He initially wanted to go to England. As of late, it appears he wants to come back.”

Birchall was a key contributor in last year's MLS Cup title run; his most important performance probably was in the second leg of the first-round playoff series against New York, when he partnered David Beckham in central midfield as Juninho served a red-card suspension. Birchall was superb in shutting off the Red Bulls' midfield game as the Galaxy completed a sweep at Home Depot Centter.

Birchall's announcement drew heavy response from Galaxy fans on Twitter, expressing sorrow that he won't return, wishing him luck -- and wondering whether another Major League Soccer club might come calling.

“Sorry to hear the news buddy,” Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who is on loan in England to Everton, tweeted to Birchall. “Thanks for all you did for the club and all the good laughs! Take care pal #MrPerfect”

WORTH NOTING: Only 7,500 tickets will be available for the March 14 CONCACAF Champions League second leg against Toronto FC at Home Depot Center, and those not already claimed by season-ticket holders go on sale Thursday, starting at $30. Capacity is capped because on an arrangement with Cal State Dominguez Hills on school-night activities. ... David Beckham has returned from England and rejoined training Monday. He is expected to play in Tuesday's closed-door match against the Portland Timbers. ... The Galaxy plays Friday morning against Houston in an MLS Cup rematch, and no decision has been made whether to open it to the public. The Feb. 14 game against Montreal will be open for a $5 donation to the Los Angeles Galaxy Foundation, which works with disadvantaged and at-risk youth. Arena has closed the Galaxy's first two matches, Tuesday's included, and isn't particularly interested in playing in front of spectators. ... Home Grown Player signing Jose Villarreal's surgery Monday for bilateral lower leg compartment syndrome was successful; he's out six weeks.