CARSON, Calif. -- The LA Galaxy youth academy boasts many exciting prospects, but one of the brightest stars is midfielder Raul Mendiola.
An 18-year-old from San Bernardino by way of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Mendiola is widely considered one of the top young prospects in the United States having earned U.S. Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year honors twice during his development. Mendiola joined the Galaxy Academy officially last year after two seasons with Temecula-based youth club Arsenal FC and is expected to play a key role with LA's Under-18 squad during the current USSDA season. Since the start of the season, Mendiola has been training regularly with the Galaxy first team -- where he is often inseparable from Jose Villarreal -- and has made six appearances for LA's Reserve League squad.
A creative midfielder in the number 10 mold since his Arsenal days, Mendiola has seen considerable time on the flanks during his time with the Reserves.
Below is my conversation with Mendiola on his prospects with the team and much more...
(On training with the Galaxy and stars like David Beckham and Landon Donovan…)
MENDIOLA: “For me, it’s an honor. It’s not often that every kid gets to train with them. You learn from them too every day. Outside the field, inside the field and it’s just amazing.”
(On his relationship with Villarreal…)
MENDIOLA: “I’ve known him since I was ten. We used to be rival in clubs (Raul with Temecula’s Arsenal and Jose with Torrance’s South Bay Force) and now that we have the chance to be teammates. He helps me and tells me to try hard all the time because you start from the bottom and work your way up to the top…We used to go at it and we didn’t get along back then, but we’ve let that go because we’re with the Galaxy."
(On advice that Villarreal has given him…)
MENDIOLA: “He’s told me when he’s playing out in the stadium that it’s quicker. You have to make quick decisions and it’s faster so people come at you faster. Back in [youth soccer] people wouldn’t come at you and you could take your touches, but he tells me just to work hard. Even though you have a bad practice, it’s just patience because things are going to work out. He does give me a lot of advice, I just stick with him and we’re always together.”
(On his growth as a younger player…)
MENDIOLA: “I guess when I was younger, I dreamed of being in Europe. I’m here and you have to work being here. My family tells me that I have to work to get somewhere because it’s not easy. I have to have patience, but I love it here and the environment. I’m living closer now [in Torrance] and it’s great.”
(On whether or not he could see himself playing for the Galaxy…)
MENDIOLA: “Yeah. Like I said, I love California and I’m hoping that I could make it big here one day.”
(On transitioning to a new position on the midfield flank…)
MENDIOLA: “The [coaches] are very good. It’s hard, but it’s part of soccer and you have to get used to stuff like that. They have me playing left mid and right mid, I usually play in the middle, but I just have to get used to it. They tell me a lot of things and I just have to get used to it until I get it right. Then I have to still work on it in order to get better.”
(On the one part of his game that he could improve on…)
MENDIOLA: “Defending. Landon [Donovan] has told me that it starts off with defending. Not just going forward, but to come back and help out on defense. I try to work on that a lot.”
(On moving on from his hometown of San Bernardino…)
MENDIOLA: It’s hard, San Bernardino is not a good city, but now it’s different. In the past, I’ve been through a lot that stuff, but that’s my city, I love it, but this is a different environment. San Bernardino is really bad, but now I’m in a happy place.”
(On what his family thinks of him training with the Galaxy…)
MENDIOLA: “They are proud. I do go visit them at times, but my family is proud of me wherever I go. My family is still [in San Bernardino] and I’m just trying to focus on me right now and leave the past behind because I have been through a lot. But I love this environment and focus right now.”
(On how Reserve League games help his development…)
MENDIOLA: “It does help me. Even though it’s ten minutes, 20 minutes, it does help me a lot. The first team might be faster, but it helps me a lot and the coaches are still telling me to improve.”
(On whether Mendiola sees his development growing…)
MENDIOLA: “I do, I do. From 14 to now, maybe it got a little quicker, but I still have to work on things and maybe get a spot soon on the Reserve team, but it takes patience and I just need to keep working.”
CARSON, Calif. – Watching a United States national team game from his couch is an entirely new endeavor for LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan and one that brings the U.S. International, no shortage of anxiety.
Sidelined with a left hamstring strain that he picked up during the U.S.’ 1-0 victory over the Mexico in August, Donovan has missed the last five games for the Galaxy and was left home during the U.S.’ vital World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica. Although Donovan admitted that the U.S. could have done better, he was pleased with the result.
“It was good that we got the win yesterday,” Donovan told reporters after training on Wednesday. “I think that we probably have to have higher expectations for ourselves. We clearly need to get out of this stage, but it was definitely a building block yesterday. I thought we played a little bit better and a lot of stress was relieved when we won the game and they blew the whistle at the end.”
The U.S. all-time leading goal scorer was particularly pleased with the way that the Americans bounced back from a disappointing 2-1 defeat in Kingston last Friday, setting up what some described as a “must win” match in Columbus on Tuesday.
“I thought that including Stevie (Cherundolo) and Carlos (Bocanegra) was a no brainer and you could see the difference that those two made when they were on the field, not only from their soccer, but their leadership and what they can provide. That was a big boost and they played really well.”
Seemingly fit for Friday’s match against the Colorado Rapids, Donovan will likely be back in action when the U.S. resumes their World Cup qualifying in mid-October. A date that Donovan admits can’t arrive any sooner after more than a few tense moments watching the Jamaica game on his couch.
“To be honest, it gives me a lot of anxiety. I hate watching and sometimes I prefer not to watch because it’s not fun. Yesterday was sweaty palms and just praying for the goal to come. Thankfully the goal came and then when the whistle blew at the end, throughout U.S. Soccer there was a sigh of relief.”
I headed into the stadium for an interview and snapped this photo of The Home Depot Center field. If you're wondering just why it looks the way it does, it is because of the Honda Civic Tour concert featuring Linkin Park and Incubus on Friday. The HDC has replaced wide stretches of grass after the stage was placed on the south section of the field.
Below is a photo of all the destroyed grass .[CORRECTION: A club spokesman confirmed to the Insider on Wednesday evening that these rolls of sod are in fact the new playing surface to be laid down at the stadium, replacing the selections that were damaged during Friday's concert.]
LA Galaxy midfielder Dan Keat was an unused substitute, but New Zealand defeated the Solomon Islands 6-1 as the Kiwis continued their campaign to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Six different players scored for the Kiwis to help New Zealand move into the pole position in Oceania's single group in World Cup qualifying. New Zealand resume their campaign for the World Cup on October 12th and October 16th with a pair of matches against Tahiti.
Meanwhile, former LA Galaxy forward Herculez Gomez scored a goal as the United States defeated Jamaica 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier. The U.S. return to action on Oct. 12th in Antigua and Barbuda and on Oct. 16th against Guatemala at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
CARSON, Calif. -- David Beckham was added to the LA Galaxy's injury report with a left ankle sprain while forward Edson Buddle was removed when the report was released on Tuesday afternoon.
Beckham picked up the injury during the Galaxy's 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on September 1st. When asked about what the club thought of his injury, head coach Bruce Arena said that "he might be" ready in time for Friday's match.
Meanwhile Buddle, who is still working his way back after undergoing right knee surgery in June, is coming off two solid Reserve League appearances going 45 minutes against the San Jose Earthquakes on September 4th and 57 minutes against the Portland Timbers on Monday.
CARSON, Calif. -- Among all the high-profile players in MLS' list of top 25 highest selling jerseys, there was one name that came as something of a surprise: LA Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee, who came in at 23rd in the rankings.
The list, which was released on Tuesday morning consists of the data of all jersey sales from March 10 to September 10, 2012 on MLSGear.com, MLSGearCanada.ca and MLS club websites. Included in the list were three of Magee's Galaxy teammates, David Beckham (number 1) Landon Donovan (number 3) and Robbie Keane (number 8).
Even though the honor led to jokes from his teammates and coaches about his families' involvement in the sales, Magee was pleasantly surprised with the nod.
"Oh yeah? 23rd? My mom was on there," Magee said with a smile on Tuesday. "I didn't know that, that's pretty cool. I'll take that."
Over the past year, the Galaxy midfielder's profile has grown from role player on the MLS Cup champions to a cult hero among Galaxy supporters. Some of Magee's cache with the supporters has stemmed from his ability to score clutch goals for the Galaxy, but most of it comes from his surprise appearance at goalkeeper during LA's 0-0 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes in 2011.
"First of all, that was pretty cool, playing goalie and it was a unique experience that the fans can connect with," Magee said. "It's something that we've all gotten a good laugh out of, but I think that I haven't gotten too caught up in it. I think my family enjoys it a lot more and enjoyed it last year, obviously, it's cooled off now, but it was an amazing experience."
Although Magee was pleased with the jersey honor, some of his teammates believe that he should strive even higher in 2013.
"I'm actually a little disappointed," Galaxy backup goalkeeper Brian Perk joked. "One of the best men in MLS, I expect him to be top 10. In my book, he's top 10 so those numbers are a little disappointing to me. It's absolutely devastating."
CARSON, Calif. -- Christian Wilhelmsson is one step closer to playing in Friday's match against the Colorado Rapids.
The Swedish International was not at training at The Home Depot Center -- or even in the United States -- on Tuesday. The Swede was in Tijuana, Mexico where he had an appointment with the U.S. Consulate to get his P-1 Visa, if the Swede gets his visa on Tuesday -- and his International Transfer Certificate by Friday -- he will be eligible on Friday.
Below are Bruce Arena's comments on Wilhelmsson's absence on Tuesday.
ARENA: "He was just getting his paper work."
CARSON, Calif. -- A few notes and observations from Monday's 4-0 Reserve League victory for the LA Galaxy over the Portland Timbers.
*The big news was of course, Landon Donovan's impressive 33 minute appearance. Donovan went into further detail about his Reserve League "debut" on the Insider blog.
*With his goal in the 82nd minute, Jack McBean became the Galaxy's Reserve League leading scorer with three goals and one assist in seven appearances. McBean is in a three-way tie for the overall goal scoring lead with Chad Barrett and Jose Villarreal.
*Christian Wilhelmsson went 57 minutes in his second Reserve League match, picking up his second yellow card in a solid performance, playing primarily at left midfield.
*Once again, Rafael Garcia and Kenney Walker formed an accomplished partnership in the center of the midfield for the Galaxy. Should the Galaxy give the two rookie midfielders another look in next week's CONCACAF Champions League match in Puerto Rico? Perhaps.
*Portland's Kris Boyd struggled to get going against Galaxy defenders Andrew Boyens and Tommy Meyer, who blanketed the Scot forward. Curious to see if he stays with the Timbers next season as he seems out of favor at the moment.
*Brian Rowe made his first Reserve League start in goal for the Galaxy and was solid, going 90 minutes and earning a shutout.
*The Timbers featured a pair of guest players, Uruguayan midfielder Pablo Di Fiori and forward Cam Vickers.
*With their win, the Galaxy are just one point behind the San Jose Earthquakes in the West Division standings with 16 and 17 points respectively. Both sides play one more match with the Earthquakes playing their last reserve match against the Seattle Sounders on September 25th at StarFire Sports Complex, while the Galaxy play their final Reserve League match of the season on October 12th against the Vancouver Whitecaps at The Home Depot Center.
In a interview with Time Warner Cable Deportes' Enrique Gutiérrez, LA Galaxy captain Landon Donovan discusses his game day routine and more.
CARSON, Calif. -- Christian Wilhelmsson put in another solid performance in his second Reserve League stint with the LA Galaxy on Monday.
Stationed on the left hand side, the Galaxy's Swedish winger was productive during his 57 minute stint in LA's 4-0 Reserve League victory over the Portland Timbers. Wilhelmsson was unable to get on the score sheet, but was solid creating several chances for LA. But his finest moment came midway through the second half when he tussled with Timbers defender Eric Brunner, a spat that ended with Wilhelmsson knocking Brunner to the ground.
Below are Wilhelmsson's thoughts on the match...
(On his performance…)
WILHELMSSON: “It’s a start, I think that the whole team played a great game. We kept the ball, it’s very hot and we tried to do the job and everyone did their job today so it was a great performance.”
(On whether or not he’ll start on Friday…)
WILHELMSSON: “That I don’t know. I’ve just been here for about a week or ten days so I have to get into it, but I’m trying to work hard and get my fitness up so we’ll see.”
(On his integration…)
WILHELMSSON: “They’re great. They’re all very nice guys so it’s not a problem at all.”
(On settling in Southern California…)
WILHELMSSON: “I’m trying to find a place now, I’m starting to look around and we’ll see what it will be.”
(On his tussle with Brunner…)
WILHELMSSON: “It was just a little bit rompy, but it’s alright. We spoke after and it’s all right. He tried to explain and I tried to explain and it was no big deal.”
(On how close he is to full fitness…)
WILHELMSSON: “I haven’t had a preseason yet so this is my start of it to get in shape. We still have to work on it. Every session and every minute in these games is important to me so I just need to work hard.”
(On whether regaining game fitness is the most important thing for him…)
WILHELMSSON: “Maybe game rhythm, I think. That’s coming slowly and getting there.”
(On his impression when Donovan came in…)
WILHELMSSON: “He’s a great player first of all, he has a lot of these qualities and he’s very smart. I think that they were tired and because we kept the ball, they had to run a lot and that made it easier for us to play in the last 15-20 minutes.”