08 February 6:25 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Michael Stephens made his preseason debut on Friday in the LA Galaxy’s 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake. The fourth-year midfielder had been sidelined with a right ankle injury for the past week.

Stephens entered the game at the start of the second half, playing 45 minutes —27 of those alongside another Galaxy player making his preseason debut: Juninho—in central midfield.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a big field; I’ve been in Chicago [during the offseason] playing small-sided [games] so it was a little bit different so I got through it alright,” said Stephens. “My ankle feels really strong actually; better than when I came in.”

Throughout the match, both teams struggled to generate a real attacking presence on a day that was marred by wet and windy conditions. Despite the result, after preseason victories over the U.S. U-17’s and the USL PRO’s Los Angeles Blues, Stephens felt that the rise in the level of competition benefited the Galaxy.

“I thought it could have been better. I think that they had the majority of the play. We didn’t give up too many chances, but we also didn’t create enough, but it’s our first game against an MLS team and we have a long way to go so we’ll get better,” he said. “The last two [preseason] games, everyone looks really good and feels really good, but that’s not the competition that we’re going to be playing against so it’s good play against teams that are challenging.”

The preseason debut wasn’t the only benefit for Stephens—and the rest of the Galaxy—as he got a chance to catch up with former LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who recently joined RSL on trial.

 “I’m happy to see him,” said Stephens. “I’m glad that he got picked up and settled because he’s a friend of mine so I’m happy to see him and it’s good to see him playing.” 

08 February 5:44 pm

CARSON, Calif. – We know that Landon Donovan will return, but when he does is still a question mark.

LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters on LA’s opening day of the preseason nearly three weeks ago that LA’s captain would return to action this year, but when that is still a question mark.  However, Arena told Joe Tutino’s Galaxy All-Access Podcast that Donovan will return over the next couple of months.

"We expect to have Landon back in the near future, and by that I mean I would hope over the next couple of months we have that whole thing settled and he's back on the field playing for the Galaxy,” Arena said.

After LA’s 1-0 defeat to RSL, Arena touched on the matter admitting that he remains in contact with the Galaxy captain and even spoke to him earlier on Friday.  Although there is no update just yet, the LA boss is confident that LA can persevere no matter when Donovan returns.  

“When he comes back, he comes back,” Arena told reporters earlier in the week. “I'm not going to worry about it. We're going to have a team ready to play come March 3, whether Landon's here or not. ...I don't know how long it's going to be. But we're going about our business. You lose players all the time: injuries, suspensions, [World Cup] qualifiers. A lot of things impact your ability to have all your players on the field at the same time. If this is another example, then so be it. And we'll get on with it.”

08 February 3:55 pm

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy dropped their first game on the preseason in a 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Friday in the club’s third preseason match of the year.

The match was marred by wet and windy conditions that played an impact on the style of play. After much of the game was stuck in the center of the park, Salt Lake went up 1-0 in the 27th minute when winger Ned Grabavoy received a ball from Kenny Mansaly and slotted a beautiful strike past goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. LA nearly leveled the score in the 41st minute when a give-and-go between Rafael Garcia and Robbie Keane put Garcia free on goal, but his chance was saved by RSL’s Nick Rimando.

In the second half, a familiar face returned to the Home Depot Center as Josh Saunders – who is currently on a trial with RSL – took over for Rimando in net. Despite having more of the possession in the second half, LA challenged Saunders only once in the 79th when Jack McBean’s header was saved by the former Galaxy goalkeeper.

More notes from the scrimmage below…

*LA lined up in the following lineup at the start of the match:  





*Garcia was by far the most active player on the field as the second-year midfielder combined well with Sarvas and showed a willingness to go forward.

*LA made two changes in the second half as McBean replaced Mike Magee and Michael Stephens replaced Hector Jimenez.

*Stephens was making his preseason debut after missing LA’s previous two matches with an ankle injury.

*By the 65th minute, LA was in the following lineup:





*The match was Juninho’s preseason debut and the Brazilian told reporters that he is at “85 percent” *fitness at the moment and hopes to start in the club’s next preseason match.

*RSL lined up in the following lineup at the start of the first half







*At the start of the second, Josh Saunders took the net for RSL. A photo of him in action is below…

*By the second half RSL was in the following lineup…


Granger -----Maund-----Salcedo------Davis





*Justin Davis is an RSL trialist, who spent last season with the NASL's Minnesota Stars FC while Benji Lopez is an RSL Academy player. 

07 February 5:09 pm

LA Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal was among the 18-players called up by U.S. Under-20 head coach Tab Ramos for the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Puebla, Mexico, but before he left, I caught up with him for this Insider Interview

Check out the video of my interview with Villarreal below.

How do you think the U.S. will perform? Expect Villarreal to lead them to the U-20 World Cup?

Share your thoughts below.

07 February 4:31 pm

LA Galaxy Homegrown forward Jose Villarreal and Academy product Javan Torre have been named to U.S. Under-20 national team head coach Tab Ramos' 18-man squad for the 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Puebla, Mexico

Villarreal is one of 11 professional players on the roster, five of which ply their trade in MLS. Meanwhile, Torre, who is recently finished his freshman season at UCLA is one of five players still enrolled in college. Also on the roster is former Galaxy Academy star Mario Rodriguez, who is currently with 1. FC Kaiserslautern in Germany. 

The U.S. find themselves in Group A with Costa Rica and Haiti and open the tournament against the Caribbean nation on Feb. 18. The top four teams from the tournament, which runs Feb. 18 to March 3 will advance to the U-20 World Cup in Turkey later this year.This U.S. team is loaded with expectation after the highly-touted 2011 group failed to qualify for the U-20 World Cup after falling to Guatemala in the Semifinal round. 

The complete roster is below...

GOALKEEPERS (3) : Cody Cropper (Southampton FC; Maple Grove, Minn.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Zackary Steffen (FC DELCO Academy; Downington, Pa.)

DEFENDERS (5) : Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (C.D. Guadalajara; Riverside, Calif.), Boyd Okwuonu (North Carolina; Edmund, Okla.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), Javan Torre (UCLA; Santa Monica, Calif.)

MIDFIELDERS (5) : Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (Sporting Kansas City; Mission, Texas), Caleb Stanko (SC Freiburg; Holly, Mich.), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio)
FORWARDS (5) : Brandon Allen (Georgetown; Old Bridge, N.J.), Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Daniel Garcia (North Carolina; Dallas, Texas), Mario Rodriguez (1. FC Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.) Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy; Inglewood, Calif.)
07 February 1:32 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- An ankle injury has kept LA Galaxy midfielder Michael Stephens on the shelf for the club's opening pair of preseason matches, but on Friday, Stephens is set to return to the field as LA take on Real Salt Lake. 

Stephens returned to full training on Wednesday and appeared sharp in finishing drills as he practiced with the club's forward and midfield players. In Stephens' absence, second-year midfielder Rafael Garcia has performed well alongside Marcelo Sarvas with LA's starting XI, but after watching his teammates at the start of the preseason, he is ready to return to the field.

"I missed the last two games with my ankle injury and [Wednesday] was my first day back so I'm excited about it," said Stephens."I got in a tackle with [Rafael Garcia] and he stepped on the inside [of his ankle], I had MRIs and everything, but it was nothing so I'll back...obviously, you always want to play, but it's better to miss some time now then having [the injury] happen again in three weeks."

The match will be Stephens' first since the 2012 postseason, but the 23-year-old midfielder isn't going to let his excitement get the best of him. 

"It'll be fun to finally playing in another game so I'm definitely a little bit anxious," said Stephens. "But it's a long process and it'll be a  long preseason."

07 February 12:14 pm

CARSON, Calif. -- Charlie Rugg was selected with the LA Galaxy's 19th overall selection in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, but nagging groin injury has prevented the 22-year-old forward from seeing much time since preseason began several weeks ago.

However, as LA's third week of preseason winds down, the forward is nearing the practice field and is expected to return to full training by the end of the week. 

Read more about Rugg's recovery here

06 February 6:22 pm

College Signing Day is a national holiday among those that follow college football. While college soccer’s own signing day does not get the same level of exposure and scrutiny, it is an important deal as well.

Seven LA Galaxy Academy products signed their letter of intent to schools across the country on Friday as they look set to begin the next stage of their soccer development.

Leading the way is Galaxy Academy starlet Paul Arriola, who is currently training with the club’s first team throughout the preseason. Arriola has committed to national powerhouse UCLA for the fall semester. Joining Arriola at UCLA are two other Academy players; defender Nathan Smith and midfielder Willie Raygoza. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Josh McNeely and midfielder Drew Murphy are heading to Isla Vista to attend UC Santa Barbara while highly touted forward prospect Justin Dhillon is heading to Cal Poly.

Rounding out the group is defender Vincent Reyes, who is off to Florida International University in Miami, where he will be coached by Bruce Arena’s son Kenny, a former Galaxy U-16 head coach. 

06 February 5:26 pm

CARSON, Calif. – Fitness concerns with midfielders Juninho and Michael Stephens have forced Rafael Garcia into a starting midfield role at the start of the preseason and the second-year midfielder has wasted no time impressing..

In LA’s victories over the U.S. Under-17 national team and Los Angeles Blues, Garcia has been extremely influential in two first half appearances.  As he looks to build upon a rookie season that saw him make a total of five appearances in all competitions, Garcia admits that he is taking whatever chances that he gets in stride.

“It’s been going good. I’m happy to jump in and help out. I’m just working hard and trying to do my thing,” said Garcia. “The team has been helping me out…with pointers here and there, talking from the back line and a few little things, but it’s been coming along well and I’m happy to get the minutes.”

During LA’s opening preseason matches, the second-year midfielder has been partnered alongside midfielder Marcelo Sarvas, who has provided an offensive presence that balances Garcia’s grit and energy.

“We work well together, he obviously brings the experience and I bring the energy so it works well,” said Garcia. “He brings experience so [I learn] when to go on certain runs, when to hold the ball, when to play long.”

But what has Garcia gained in these first two preseason matches?  “Mostly fitness,” he admits, but also plenty of “confidence and motivation.”

“Anytime that you get to start a game whether it’s a practice game or a real competition, it’s always an honor,” said Garcia. “For me, I just look at it as I have to keep working hard and when my number gets called, I just have to learn from these opportunities.”

06 February 3:55 pm

LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez started and went 90 minutes in the U.S. national team's 2-1 defeat to Honduras in a World Cup Qualifier 

Gonzalez started alongside former Houston Dynamo defender and current Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron in the middle for the U.S. national team. Clint Dempsey put the U.S. ahead in the 35th minute off a beautiful through-ball from Jermaine Jones.

However, Honduras tallied two unanswered goals with the first coming in 39th minute on Juan Carlos Garcia's incredible bicycle kick goal that blew past goalkeeper Tim Howard. Honduras went ahead for good in the 78th minute when the Central Americans capitalized on a defensive lapse by the U.S. with Jerry Bengston giving Honduras the victory.Gonzalez had a stoppage time header, but fired his chance over the bar.

Complete highlights of the game are below...

How do you feel Gonzalez performed? Do you expect him to start when the U.S. continue the Hexagonal against Costa Rica on March 22 at Dick's Sporting Goods Park?

Share your thoughts below.