Bruce Arena raves about Jose Villarreal's Cruz Azul opportunity as forward begins training with first team
CARSON, Calif. – Weeks after completing a loan to Cruz Azul, Jose Villarreal is steadily beginning to integrate himself with the squad.
According to the website Mediotiempo, Villarreal, Rafael Baca and Michael Farfan have begun training with the Cruz Azul first team over the past week. Although the training session represent Villarreal’s first steps forward to earning minutes, the 19-year-old forward faces an uphill battle after Cruz Azul sporting director Agustín Manzo labeled the forward a work-in-progress during his unveiling in December.
However, even as Villarreal looks to lock down a steady place with the Mexican side, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena admits that the forward has the skills to succeed in Mexico.
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” Villarreal told reporters earlier this week. “He’s a player that has great promise. He’s being placed in an environment that I think that he’s going to be comfortable in and hopefully, he can show a lot of progress this year."
CARSON, Calif. -- In less than seven days, the American soccer community will gather in Philadelphia for the 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
In preparation for the SuperDraft, I spoke to Top Drawer Soccer youth soccer expert Travis Clark about LA's draft needs and interesting players that may be available.
Check it out below.
LA GALAXY INSIDER: How would you rate this particular draft in terms of quality?
CLARK: This is an interesting group of talent. In my opinion, the strength is along the back line, particularly with a glut of center backs both Generation adidas and from the crop of seniors talent. While there may not be a great deal of players who have a high ceiling, I think that there might be a higher number of MLS squad players in this group who could make a roster.
LAGI: What type of talent do you expect to be available when the Galaxy draft at 14?
CLARK: Depending on how quick the Generation adidas players come off the board will dictate what is there for the Galaxy's first pick. I'd expect a solid center back or two might be there for the taking, or perhaps one of the draft's few quality outside backs.
LAGI: What do you see as the Galaxy's biggest positional need in the draft?
CLARK: You'd know this better than me, but I'm sure the Galaxy could use depth in the midfield or at the back.
LAGI: Personally, I feel that the Galaxy should be seeking to find right back depth in lieu of the departure of Sean Franklin, who are the best right back prospects and could they be available at 14?
CLARK: If for some reason Eric Miller slips to the Galaxy at 14, it would be a no brainer pick. The Creighton defender played as a center back this year, but will likely feature as a right back in MLS, and would be Generation adidas player, so wouldn't count against the salary cap. If he isn't there -- which is probably going to be the case – snapping up UC Irvine right back Marco Franco would be a smart move. He's someone that could come in and possibly get minutes this season.
Outside of him and Miller, there aren't a lot of right back options.
LAGI: Since the Galaxy have a tendency to draft college players to local to the Southern California area, who are some of the standouts from the Southern California pool?
CLARK: Along with Franco, UCLA has a number of senior candidates available --though I'm not sure if they'd fit in with what the Galaxy is looking for. Victor Munoz is a creative midfielder from Spain that could offer a spark and should be on the board later in the rounds. Enrique Cardenas is another similar kind of player out of Irvine, but he's another that will likely be there after the first two rounds.
UC Santa Barbara has some intriguing options -- defensive midfielder Fifi Baiden, who isn't the biggest presence but can cover ground, while also offering up a pair of foreigners: forward Achille Campion from France and towering 6-foot-6 German center back Peter Schmetz.
LAGI: Who do you see the Galaxy taking with the 14th pick? And their pick in the late fourth round?
CLARK: I think picking up Marco Franco might be a good move in the first round, adding depth at right back. Maybe go for a center back like [New Mexico's Kyle] Venter or [Michigan State's Kevin] Cope, which might represent one of the best players available at the time.
Perhaps with the other pick, the Galaxy can look close to home and grabbing Munoz in the fourth round, see if he can adapt and add a creative spark to the midfield.
What do you believe are the LA Galaxy's needs ahead of the draft?
CARSON, Calif. – We’re only a week away from the 2014 MLS SuperDraft where the LA Galaxy currently hold two selections.
The Galaxy have the 14th overall selection in the first round, but then they'll be in for a bit of a wait as they will not pick again until the fourth round with the 72nd pick. Next week, I and the rest of the LAGalaxy.com crew will be in Philadelphia providing coverage from the SuperDraft.
Check out my primer below.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Friday, Jan. 10 2014: Start of MLS adidas Player Combine. Game 1: Nitro Charge vs. Predator, 2 pm ET/ Game 2: adiZero vs. Brazuca, 3:45 pm ET
Sunday, Jan. 12 2014: Game 3: Nitro Charge vs. adiZero, 10:30 pm PT/ Game 4: Predator vs. Brazuca, 12:30 pm PT
Tuesday, Jan. 14 2014: Game 5: adiZero vs. Predator, 7 am PT / Game 6: Nitro Charge vs. Brazuca, 8:55 am PT
Thursday, Jan. 16 2014: 2014 MLS SuperDraft, 9 am PT on ESPN2.
GENERATION ADIDAS PLAYERS
BRUCE ARENA ON LA GALAXY DRAFT NEEDS: “We’re drafting 14th so you never know what is going to be available. We do think that there is going to be a good player available but we just don’t know in terms of position. At this point in time, we’re going to draft the best players available. There are obviously a number of players that we have an interest in. So we’ll go down in the combine and watch them a little closer then when our turn comes, we’ll pick whomever is a good addition to our roster.”
What do you think the LA Galaxy draft needs are? What do you want the Galaxy to look for in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft? How would you tell Bruce Arena to draft?
Share your thoughts below.
CARSON, Calif. -- During Friday's U.S. National Team training session, LA Galaxy videographer Paolo Ferrari stopped by and took a number of great photos.
Check them out below.
CARSON, Calif. – Count LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan among those praising Toronto FC’s reported capture of star U.S. National Team midfielder Michael Bradley.
Although the deal has not yet been announced by MLS or Toronto FC, the widely reported transfer was confirmed by Bradley’s Italian club A.S. Roma on Thursday. Bradley is the latest U.S. National Team standout to return to MLS or elect to stay in the league and the highest profile returnee since Seattle Sounders FC’s signing of Clint Dempsey in August.
When asked about Bradley’s reported move, Donovan admitted that the return of the 26-year-old was “great” for Toronto FC, MLS and his national team teammate.
“I think that it’s a testament to our league that people want to come back and play here particularly six months before a World Cup,” said Donovan ahead of U.S. National Team training on Thursday.” It makes a strong statement, obviously, [Tim Leiweke] made it clear to him that it was something that he wanted, and Mike is a smart guy, I’m sure that he’s thought about this a lot and it’s something that he wants to do so I think that it is great.”
If any U.S. National Team player is familiar with Bradley’s current situation, it would be Donovan who made a high-profile return to MLS from Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen in 2005 to join the Los Angeles Galaxy. Donovan then opted to extend his stay in MLS last summer when he inked a multi-year deal to stay with the Galaxy.
Although the moves of players like Bradley and Dempsey may be criticized, Donovan attests that the two players are simply “following their dreams” in a much improved MLS than the one the Galaxy forward returned to in 2005.
“The league is a lot better. The league is different because financially more stable, but in all ways, coaching is better, youth development is better, there’s more media, there’s more attention, everything is different and constantly changing,” said Donovan. “We always say that [MLS] is not where we want it to be, but when guys like Michael and Clint make decisions like that, when [Omar Gonzalez], Matt Besler, Graham Zusi make the decision to stay here when they could have gone abroad, it makes a big statement.
“The way that you make the league better is by having better players and certainly in the last six months, it has gotten two of our best [American] players back in the league.”
What do you think about the move?
Share your thoughts below.
CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy U-16 goalkeeper Eric Lopez has been added to the U.S. Soccer Under-17 Residency program for their upcoming Spring semester.
Lopez was among the five players who will join 21 existing residency members including Galaxy U-16 forward Haji Wright who earned great acclaim after scoring five goals at the Nike International Friendlies in December. The 14-year-old 'keeper has appeared in five games for the undefeated LA U-16 side that has amassed a 9-0-4 record in Southwest Division play during the 2013-14 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season. The Galaxy U-16's are the only undefeated side in the nation in their USSDA age group.
Among those left off the roster for the spring residency semester is Galaxy U-16 goalkeeper Abraham Romero who will return to train with LA's Academy.
The complete roster is below.
GOALKEEPERS: Eric Lopez (LA Galaxy Academy; Westminster, Calif.), Will Pulisic (Richmond Strikers; Mechanicsville, Va.), Kevin Silva (PDA; Bethlehem, Pa.)
DEFENDERS (8): Hugo Arellano (Chivas USA Academy; Norwalk, Calif.), George Braima (Crew Soccer Academy; Columbus, Ohio), Nikkye De Point (Revolution Empire; Rochester, N.Y.), Tanner Dieterich (TN Soccer Club; Nashville, Tenn.), John Nelson (Internationals; Medina, Ohio), Matthew Olosunde (New York Red Bulls Academy; Trenton, N.J.), AJ Palazzolo (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallon, Mo.), Alexis Velela (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.)
MIDFIELDERS: Eric Calvillo (Real So Cal; Palmdale, Calif.), Jose Carranza (D.C. United Academy; Manassas, Va.), Kyle Gurrieri (NJSA 04; Totowa, N.J.), Thomas McCabe (PDA; South Orange, N.J.), Weston McKennie (FC Dallas Academy; Little Elm, Texas), Logan Panchot (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; St. Louis, Mo.), Jaret Townsend (Real Colorado; Highlands Park, Colo.), Devin Vega (San Antonio Scorpions; San Antonio, Texas), Brian Zelaya (De Anza Force; San Mateo, Calif.), Alejandro Zendejas (FC Dallas Academy; El Paso, Texas)
FORWARDS: Pierre Da Silva (New York Soccer Club; Port Chester, N.Y.), McKenzie Gaines (Lonestar SC; Austin, Texas), Christian Pulisic (PA Classics; Hershey, Pa.), Eric Matzelevich (Bethesda-Olney; Washington; D.C.), Elijah Rice (Chicago Magic PSG; Highland Park, Ill.), Raheem Taylor-Parkes (Philadelphia Union Academy; Wesley Chapel, Fla.), Haji Wright (LA Galaxy Academy; Los Angeles, Calif.)
CARSON, Calif. -- On Tuesday, the LA Galaxy made a splash adding Brazilian forward Samuel on a year-long loan from Brazilian side Fluminense.
To learn a bit more about Samuel and his background with Fluminense, I spoke to Jack Lang, a noted Brazilian soccer specialist who has written about the nation's soccer culture for many publications including ESPN, Yahoo and Eurosport.
My conversation with Lang is below.
LA Galaxy Insider: How would you describe Samuel as a player? He tallied just 15 goals in 72 games for the club over a two year period.
LANG: He's a number nine who can lead the line alone or combine with a partner. Much was expected of him after he graduated from youth football, but he hasn't yet hit the heights – as his record illustrates. He did well coming into the Fluminense side as a relative unknown in 2012, netting a few goals, but things were trickier for him in 2013. When Brazil striker Fred picked up an injury midway near the start of the Brazilian season, Samuel was thrust into the frontline and expected to perform a similar role. But he never got to grips with the job, scoring just once after May.
Admittedly he wasn't starting week-in, week-out - but that further underlines the point that he didn't manage to make the position his own. Hopefully the move to LA Galaxy will help him rediscover his confidence and form.
LAGI: During the last year, he's been linked with a number of big clubs in Spain from Espanyol to Real Madrid B, do you feel like this interest may have hindered or aided his professional development?
LANG: It probably didn't help. Brazilian youngsters often have their heads turned by European interest early in their careers, so they begin to dream big before even establishing themselves. Some knuckle down but countless others have drifted into mediocrity on a wave of misplaced ambition. I don't know whether Samuel was one of the latter group, but you'd imagine he will have been brought back to earth by his middling form in 2013.
LAGI: The scuttlebutt on Samuel is that he's been described a talented player but one limited speed wise. Is this a fair assessment?
LANG: I would say so. He's certainly got attributes that will help him plunder goals: he has good anticipation, for instance, and is great in the air. He's also a tidy finisher with both feet. But he's certainly not going to win any prizes for pure athletics; he often looks a touch leaden-footed and isn't one to speed past his marker.
LAGI: Fluminense was nearly relegated a year ago after their poor showing, what's the current state of the club at the moment?
LANG: They had a turbulent 2013, to say the least. Champions in 2012 (their second title in three years), they looked to be ushering in a bright new era on the back of funding from medical insurance giant Unimed. They had invested in proven talent (Fred, Thiago Neves, Deco) new training facilities, while coach Abel Braga was making all the right noises about building a dynasty.
But things went awry. Braga was dismissed in July after five consecutive defeats. His replacement, Vanderlei Luxemburgo, also struggled, leading the side to just seven wins in 26 games. Fred's injury didn't help, while their once-solid defence went missing too often.
They were actually relegated in the final week of the season, only to earn a controversial reprieve in the courtroom. It turned out that Portuguesa had fielded an ineligible player in their last game, and the Brazilians sports tribunal saw fit to dock them just enough points to save Flu's skin. They may have retained their top-flight status, but the side Samuel is leaving behind is unlikely to be too popular among neutrals for the foreseeable future.
LAGI: Several Brazilian players are currently flourishing in MLS, what's the perception of the league in Brazil and the U.S. National Team?
LANG: It's still viewed as something of a novelty by some – a league with the financial power to lure players away (like Middle Eastern leagues often do) but not one with any great footballing gravitas. That's clearly a fairly outmoded view, especially as the MLS trumps the Brasileirão in many ways: bigger attendances (in the last few years at least), better organisation, more advanced commercial streams.
CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy will take on the San Jose Earthquakes for the first time in 2014 on Feb. 15 in Fresno’s Chukchansi Park for the inaugural Central California Cup.
The match is LA’s first preseason fixture in Fresno since 2007 when the Galaxy defeated the Fresno Fuego 4-0. LA's match against San Jose is their second announced preseason game as they will take on Armenian champions FC Shirak on Feb. 8 at StubHub Center.
The U.S. National Team opened their annual January camp on Tuesday and U.S. Soccer has provided a brief video update with interviews with head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Mike Magee, Graham Zusi, and Matt Besler
Check it out below.
CARSON, Calif. – The U.S. National Team has opened their annual January camp at StubHub Center, but as preparations begin for their match against Korea Republic on Feb. 1, more details are emerging of the camp’s unique schedule.
The U.S. will train at StubHub Center for a total of 13 days before departing for Brazil where they will train at the facility of Sao Paulo FC from Jan. 13-25 where they will play a series of closed-door scrimmages against Sao Paulo’s first team. U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is expected to take 23 players to Brazil, but could take more depending on the players’ fitness levels. Any player that does not travel to South America is expected to continue training in Carson prior to the Feb. 1 match.
“We'll try things out there. We want to get to know the people. We want to build relationships, if it's at the hotel, at the training ground. We want to get a feel for how things work there – for the Brazilian lifestyle, in a certain way – and this is a good opportunity,” Klinsmann told reporters on Tuesday. “So we connected it because no other [World Cup] team really has that January camp happening. It's because of the schedule that MLS has gives us that opportunity.”
Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi noted on Tuesday that the competition between players for a spot on plane to Brazil “makes it all real” for all players involved in the January camp, a sentiment that was echoed by LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez.
“I don’t know if I’m going to Brazil so I have to keep on working hard and not give Jurgen a reason to say no to me,” said Gonzalez. “I have to keep on working hard and everyone is in the same boat here because no one is penciled in. It’ll help everyone work that much harder and increase everyone’s game.”