TORONTO -- The LA Galaxy were minutes away from dropping their first defeat of 2013, but a moment of brilliance from 19-year-old Jose Villarreal kept the Galaxy undefeated in six games across all competitions and allowed LA to earn a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC.
Immediately upon entering the match in the 70th minute, Villarreal was a threat going forward with his clever passes and darting runs. The display from the teenager is all the more impressive after he missed several days of training earlier in the week due to an illness, but that did not stop him from scoring a stunning scissor kick finish in stoppage time to save a point for LA.
"It was a cross from Omar [Gonzalez], I don’t know if Mike [Magee] or the defender put it back in the box or something like that and it was just a reaction play by me," said Villarreal. "I’m just happy I can help out the team."
But when asked if he has ever scored like that before, Villarreal smiled, showcasing the same youthful exuberance that led to his goal before turning to his locker mate Sean Franklin.
"I had a couple against Sean in practice like that," said the beaming teenager. "But never in a game."
Villarreal's goal is below...
TORONTO –When Landon Donovan made his 2013 debut after missing the start of the regular season, LA Galaxy captain Todd Dunivant ran up to the 31-year-old forward to hand him the captain’s armband.
The gesture was a simple one, but Dunivant felt that it was a meaningful one to truly welcome him back into the team that he captained since the 2007-2008 season. Donovan then donned the armband as he went 29 minutes as a late Jose Villarreal goal helped LA earn a point in a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC.
“It was just a symbolic gesture to show that we had fully welcomed him back," Dunivant told LA Galaxy Insider. "He’s as much as part of these team as he ever was, so it’s as simple as that. He’s been our leader and it’s more of a symbolic gesture than anything.”
As for Donovan, he could help his surprise, but admitted that his goal is a simple one—to contribute for the Galaxy.
“I was surprised. I told him no at first and he insisted so it was a very nice gesture,” said Donovan.” More than anything, it was nice to be on the field. I really want to contribute and I’m really anxious to contribute and make a difference.”
TORONTO - Landon Donovan made his season debut on Saturday, going 29 minutes in the LA Galaxy's 2-2 draw with Toronto FC.
Donovan had one golden opportunity just seconds after coming on, which you can see below. Immediately upon entering, Donovan was given the captain's armband by Todd Dunviant, who started the match as captain
TORONTO -- We're only a few hours until kick off of the LA Galaxy's first MLS regular season road game of the season against Toronto FC.
Below are my links, matchups to watch and predicted lineups...
*By far the biggest story of the week was Landon Donovan's return to the Galaxy. He returned on Tuesday and his teammates have been pleased with him so far. But just when he returns to the field remains a question mark. However, Donovan did discuss on a number of topics from mental health to Robbie Keane taking over the captain's armband.
*Meanwhile, Omar Gonzalez's return from international duty was also important news and he talks about his rise through the U.S. ranks and facing Toronto FC.
*Jack McBean enjoyed a strong game against the Colorado Rapids last week, but could not find the back of the net, this week, he believes that he can find a goal.
*My LAGalaxy.com preview focusing on Todd Dunivant facing off with old Stanford teammate Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen.
*Speaking of Nelsen, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena offered his own thoughts on the new TFC boss.
*Lastly, my Three Points to the game.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
JACK MCBEAN vs. DANNY CALIFF
A battle of youth against experience. McBean created countless chances against Colorado, but he'll face a stronger test -- quite literally -- in the physical Califf. Both quite physical on and off the ball, whoever can keep up the pressure will win the battle in the penalty area.
OMAR GONZALEZ vs. ROBERT EARNSHAW
Earnshaw has scored all three of Toronto FC's goals this season, but even though two have come off penalty kicks, his speed and guile make him a pest for opposing defenses. Gonzalez is likely to be the target on Saturday as the Welsh international looks to force Gonzalez into turnovers on the defensive end.
TODD DUNIVANT vs. JOHN BOSTOCK
Earshaw may have the goals, but Bostock has been one of TFC's true dangermen this year. With considerable pace down the right flank, he has sparked many of Toronto's counterattacking opportunities. Positioning will be key for Dunivant to put the Englishman under wraps.
Cudicini; DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Leonardo, Dunivant; Franklin, Sarvas, Juninho, Clark; Magee, McBean
TORONTO – Todd Dunivant will take on his old Stanford teammates on Saturday in Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen.
The pair were teammates with the Cardinal before Nelsen opted to pursue his professional career. I spoke to Dunivant about Nelsen in this preview.
As for how he believes Nelsen's TFC side will play, Dunivant said the following:
DUNIVANT: “I don’t think they’ll sit back especially at home. They’re going to try and come out at us and put pressure on us right away.”
Meanwhile Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena offered these thoughts on Nelsen.
ARENA: “I think that in time, he’s going to be a real good coach if he’s not one already. He’s a bright guy and very passionate about the game and has all the tools to be a good coach and manager.”
TORONTO – The LA Galaxy landed in Toronto on Friday ahead of Saturday’s match with Toronto FC, but one player that did not make the trip is captain Robbie Keane.
Keane returned to Southern California earlier this week to continue treatment. Last week, Keane pulled out of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying match against Austria with a calf strain.
During the Irishman's international absence, Todd Dunivant took over the captain's armband against the Colorado Rapids last week.
WASHINGTON – Omar Gonzalez is back from a successful stint with the U.S. national team and has declared himself ready to participate in Saturday’s match against Toronto FC.
Gonzalez rejoined the Galaxy on Wednesday evening and immediately participated in two training sessions with the club ahead of their journey to Toronto on Friday. Following Thursday’s session Gonzalez told reporters that he felt “sharp” after his time with the U.S. squad, which included two 90 minute performances against Costa Rica and Mexico.
The Galaxy center back’s rise to U.S. national team regular has been impressive, but Gonzalez asserts that he’ll need to continue to perform for LA to keep his ascension going.
“It’s great. I’ve been ready for that level for a while now. It’s great to be in the mix and it’s great to get that kind of recognition, but that’s not what I’m looking for,” said Gonzalez. “I’m looking to be on the team and help win games and do whatever I can to be a part of that process and enjoying every single moment, staying humble then coming back to my club, the Galaxy and putting my head down and working hard to continue my success.”
But Gonzalez readily admits that the rise has done wonders for his confidence.
“It definitely feels good having that kind of recognition, But I just want to continue that and help the Galaxy win more championships,” the defender said.
One thing that Gonzalez admits helped him greatly was his performance his start against Honduras last month that steeled him for Azteca.
“I think Honduras, that atmosphere is as tough as it gets. With the humidity the field, the heat, and the fans, that was a great way to start off my career with the national team," said Gonzalez. "I think I learned a lot in that game. I felt a lot more prepared going into Azteca."
As for TFC, Gonzalez expects that the Galaxy will face a challenge against a re-energized Toronto FC side that he identifies as an organized squad.
"I haven’t really kept up with the beginning of the season, but I know that they beat KC and that’s a great start for them coming off two not so great years,” said Gonzalez. “They’re starting off on the right foot this year and it’s good to see. I’m looking for a good sharp and intense game.”
The LA Galaxy are traveling north of the border on Friday ahead of this weekend's match against Toronto FC.
Check my Three Points to the match below...
Agree or disagree with my points?
Share your thoughts below.
Courtesy of LAGalaxy.com's video department the LA Galaxy break down Saturday's match against Toronto FC.
Watch the video below...
Understandably so, much of the focus around Landon Donovan’s return has focused on when he’ll suit up again for the LA Galaxy and the U.S. national team, but during Donovan’s conference call with reporters, the Galaxy forward spoke about his absence in a different way.
When asked during a media conference call about whether he spoke to Sports Psychologists or specialists during his absence, Donovan eloquently discussed the reception that he received for his decision as well as the rationale behind his decision to take a break from the game.
“I speak to many people often that I love and care about and love and care about me often. Not just during this time, but I’m constantly speaking to people to try to be a better person and be a better player. Unfortunately, in this society and many other societies, we have a sort of stigma that being in a difficult mental place is not acceptable. We should pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and fight through it and it’s a little peculiar to me that whole idea, if someone is physically hurt we’re okay with letting them take the time to come back, but if someone is in a difficult place mentally, we’re not okay with allowing them to take the time that they need to come back.
“Hopefully, there’s a few people out in the world who can relate to this and can somewhat be inspired. That doesn’t mean that everybody should be lazy and take as much time as they need and do whatever they want in life. Obviously, there’s points in life that are difficult, but if you’re really at a place where struggling mentally then we need to be more compassionate and understanding of people in all walks of life and understand that they might need time away too. That was certainly the case with me. I had the added physical element where my body was exhausted, but if I didn’t take this time off, I would have been useless to everybody this year in a professional setting and probably a personal setting as well. I absolutely needed it and I’m very glad that I did it.”
What are your thoughts on Donovan's comments?
Share them below.