Bruce Arena’s Los Angeles Galaxy prepared for this weekend’s encounter with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at the Home Depot Center (7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET, Time Warner Cable SportsNet). With Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane out due to international commitments, for the first time this season, the Galaxy’s depth will be tested.
What does rookie Jose Villareal think of possibly matching up with Jack McBean up top on Saturday?
“That would be pretty crazy,” said Villarreal to LAGalaxy.com’s Larry Morgan. “Two (Galaxy) academy kids playing with the first team and starting, that would be like going back to the academy days. It would be nice. We know each other pretty well. It would work pretty well.”
“I feel pretty ready,” McBean said. “The game on Sunday was good for my confidence. Coming in and getting a goal and helping the team any way I can.”
Even Chandler Hoffman, the acquisition from Philadelphia, fancies his chances of making a difference this weekend.
“I had an honest conversation with [Union head coach John] Hackworth and felt where I stood on the team and we both thought it would be in the best interest of the team if they move me,” said Hoffman to LAGalaxy.com’s Adam Serrano. “Obviously, I knew Bruce from training here and playing at UCLA. It’s an incredible opportunity here with more matches with Champions League and learning from Robbie, then Landon when he comes back, and obviously being in a great environment so I’m excited about the opportunity.”
Keane and the Republic of Ireland take on Sweden and Austria in FIFA 2014 World Cup qualification. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s always nice to represent your country and it’ll be nice to go back and see family and friends, but we’re there to do the job,” Keane told Serrano earlier this week. “Hopefully, we can get the points. They are two big games and these are the two games that could decide if we go or not.”
Keane believes that this weekend will be a good opportunity for McBean and Villareal to mesh and surprise a few pundits stateside.
“It’s obviously a good opportunity for them when a few senior players are gone to see how the team [deals] without relying on all the players for guidance,” Keane added. “It’s a good experience for them and hopefully they’ll take their chance.”
Jurgen Klinsmann, the manager of the USA Men’s National Team, is a firm believer in Gonzalez’s ability as a defender. The Stars and Stripes face Costa Rica on Mar. 22 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo. and Mexico on Mar. 26 at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
“To me, he has the opportunity to grow and mature in our environment. I think he’s done well in Honduras. Even though the second goal happened because of a sequence of mistakes by several players involved that manipulated the game, but overall, he played an absolute okay game,” said Klinsmann to Serrano. “I had him with me the whole January camp which has been a pleasure to see his potential.
“Now for him, to get to another level, it is only by playing and gaining experience and growing. I think he’s done well so far. We believe that there is a real special player coming through the system.”
“We’re going to miss Omar’s presence back there, his ball-winning capabilities, and being big in the center and an important role in our defense, but we knew that he was going to be leaving for national team duty,” said defender Sean Franklin to Serrano. “All the best to him, but I think we’ll be fine with people coming in and playing.”
Meanwhile, regarding the lineup, another possibility being tossed around is Mike Magee slotted with Villareal against the Rapids, with McBean coming in as a super sub later in the match. As for Villareal, the 1-1 draw with Chivas was just another case of the young man taking his lumps.
“It was physical. There were some dirty plays here and there. That’s how Clásicos are and that’s how it is going to be whenever we play Chivas or San Jose or D.C. United,” Villareal told Serrano. “It was a little brutal, I guess you can say, but it’s just part of it. In every Clásico across the world, whether it was America vs. Chivas de Guadalajara or Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona, it’s just part of the game.”
Finally, the Galaxy Academy is prepping up for the Dallas Cup later this month. Here is the roster.
LA Galaxy Academy Dallas Cup XXXIV Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Juan Cervantes, Josh McNeely, Daniel Slepukhin.
DEFENDERS (8): Cameron Marlow, Vincent Reyes, Juan Reyna, Nathan Smith, Oscar Sorto, Matt Tilley, Javan Torre, Ivan Velasquez.
MIDFIELDERS (6): Paul Arriola, Bryan Guzman, Grady Howe, Raul Mendiola, Drew Murphy, William Raygoza,
FORWARDS (5): Justin Dhillon, Lucas Da Silva, Aaron Lombardi, Sebastian Velasquez, Jaime Villarreal.
HEAD COACH: Alex Yi