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Soccer

Uriel Antuna and Diego Polenta near deals with Galaxy

Mexico’s Uriel Antuna, right, celebrates next to El Salvador’s Fernando Castillo after scoring a goal during a 2017 match in San Jose, Costa Rica.

When the Galaxy hired general manager Dennis te Kloese away from the Mexican soccer federation and signed Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto to be their new coach, the hope was the two men would exploit their deep ties in Latin America to strengthen their new team.

That already appears to be happening with the Galaxy confirming Friday they are near to a deal to get Mexican winger Uriel Antuna on a loan from Manchester City and are close to signing Uruguayan Diego Polenta, a left-footed center back.

Both deals could be announced before the Galaxy open preseason training camp Monday.

Antuna, 21, a direct winger who can play on either side, moved to Europe from Santos Laguna in 2017. He spent the last 18 months on loan to Dutch side FC Groningen before being returned to Manchester City earlier this month.

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Polenta, 26, played for two Uruguayan age-group national teams and was most recently with Nacional, which he helped to two Uruguayan first-division titles. He fills a need on a team that lacks depth on its back line.

When the two players sign, it would leave the Galaxy with nine international players, one over the MLS limit. The team could get below that number by loaning out players — midfielder Joao Pedro spent part of last season on loan with Apollon Smyrni of the Greece Super League — or by having players obtain green cards.

The Los Angeles Football Club also will open training camp Monday amid swirling rumors linking captain Carlos Vela to Spanish club Barcelona.

The La Liga leader has Vela, 29, on a shortlist of players it is interested in obtaining to replace recently departed forward Munir El Haddadi. Barcelona is reportedly interested in Vela — who spent 11 years with four teams in La Liga — on a six-month loan, which would allow him to return to MLS in early summer.

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LAFC has yet to publicly confirm Barcelona’s interest in Vela and a deal is considered to be a longshot. Barcelona is in the middle of its season and Vela hasn’t played since LAFC’s season-ending playoff loss in October, meaning it could be several weeks before he would ready to appear in a game.

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Plus Barcelona is looking for a player to back up Luis Suarez at center-forward, a position that isn’t Vela’s best. Given that Vela, who had 14 goals and 13 assists, making him LAFC’s leading scorer and a league MVP finalist in the team’s inaugural season, is a fan favorite in Southern California, it would likely take a lucrative offer to pry him away, even on loan.

Barcelona, however, has the resources to make that happen.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11


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