CARSON, Calif. -- The United States Under-20's learned their opponents for the group stage of 2013 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Puebla, Mexico, which serves as the qualifying tournament for the 2013 Under-20 World Cup.
The Americans were awarded the top seed in Group A for the tournament that takes place from February 18 through March 2 and will take on Costa Rica and Haiti. The top two nations in each of the four groups will reach the quarterfinals while the four nations that advance to the semifinals will move on to the 2013 U-20 World Cup in Turkey. (The complete schedule for the CONCACAF tournament can be found here.)
One player that is expected to be on the field for the Americans in Mexico is LA Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal, who is hopeful that he can become a key part of U-20 head coach Tab Ramos' squad.
“That’s important for me getting to be with the Under-20s and getting ready for qualifiers and hopefully we make it to the World Cup," said Villarreal. "It’s going to get me fitter and expose me to different players, different coaches, and different styles of play.”
With World Cup qualifying in his sights, Villarreal admits that he’s certainly learned a great deal during his U-20 experience.
“It’s definitely positive in every way," said Villarreal. "It’s a little similar to what the national team is like and it’s always fun to be around a group of guys that are the best in their age group. It’s just fun because you can learn a lot from them and we’re all friends and it’s always fun to play with friends.”
David Beckham may be playing his last game for the LA Galaxy on Dec. 1 in MLS Cup 2012 at The Home Depot Center against the Houston Dynamo, but AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke is adamant that the only place for the club to move in the post-Beckham era is forward.
In the second and final part of his exclusive interview with LA Galaxy Insider on Tuesday evening, Leiweke discussed the Galaxy brand and what is next for the team after David Beckham. (Part one is here.)
One of the largest spots of growth has been on the brand side where LA have grown exponentially. Last November, the Galaxy signed a 10-year $55 million television contract with Time Warner Cable Sports, the most lucrative in MLS history and in March signed a 10-year $44 million dollar sponsorship extension with Herbalife—also the most lucrative in MLS history—to be the official presenting sponsor and jersey sponsor of the Galaxy.
“We created one of the top brands in soccer in the world and I think people know the Galaxy worldwide. I’m always traveling around the world to all of our different companies and assets and I see Galaxy jerseys in China, I see Galaxy jerseys in Europe and London, so I think it’s unique that we’ve been able to take an MLS club in a country that people thought didn’t care about soccer and make it one of the more recognizable soccer brands in the world.”
“That is a credit to David and the fact that he not only put us on the map, but made a statement once we got there. That’s not going to go away, everyone always underestimates Robbie Keane, but the man is to this day still one of the top 10 scorers in the history of the Premier League and we have arguably one of the best American players who has ever played the game,” Leiweke added. “These are guys that are 31, 32 years old and they’re not going anywhere, so as much as David put us on the map, we got a team, a coach and an organization that aren’t going anywhere and we’re going to continue to grow. So as sad as I am to see David leave because he is a friend and a tremendous influence on this organization, that said, this is the right time.”
Although Beckham will depart the club next month, Leiweke reveals that conversations about the Galaxy’s next step have been ongoing for months.
“Bruce, Chris Klein and I have spent a lot of time talking in the last three or four months about where we go next. You know, we’re very fortunate to have Juninho and Sarvas. We’re not lacking for good creative midfielders and they’re young and hopefully this gives us resources to keep that nucleus intact,” said Leiweke. “We’re lucky we have Robbie Keane, he makes this a much easier transition, we’re lucky we have Landon Donovan. Frankly, I think from a player standpoint, I don’t think we miss a beat next year. I love David, but I think David would be the first to tell you that with Juninho and Sarvas, we got a pretty potent midfield, so I don’t think you’re going to see slippage here.”
And of that designated player spot? Leiweke admits that the club is going to look for the right fit, not just the first player that comes along.
“Yes, it does give us a DP slot, but don’t expect us to rush out and go fill it. We’re going to fill it with the right guy and it’s the right guy for this marketplace, the right guy for Bruce and the team that he and Chris want to build,” said Leiweke. “Chris and I have spent a lot of time talking about where we go find that next guy. It’s going to have to be the right guy not the first guy, which means maybe we’re patient for a year or two until we get the right guy.”
CARSON, Calif. –AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke was instrumental in bringing David Beckham to the LA Galaxy in 2007, but the man that brought Beckham to Los Angeles admits that it was time for both to move on.
Six years after Leiweke helped the Galaxy sign Beckham, the midfielder will play his final game with the club on Dec. 1 in the 2012 MLS Cup Final against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center. The match will bring a close to his six-year tenure with LA, where Beckham notched 98 regular season appearances, tallying 18 goals and 40 assists.
In an exclusive interview with the LA Galaxy Insider on Tuesday evening, Leiweke discussed his emotions and thoughts of the Beckham’s finale.
“I have mixed emotions. On one hand, I think the world of David; he’s been a great player, a great mentor, an important part of the league, an important part of our organization, and a good friend. That said, I’m proud of him, it’s the right time. We get a chance to end this with an exclamation mark,” Leiweke told LA Galaxy Insider. “I know like me, there have always been critics, speculation and criticism of bringing him here, but it’s hard to argue with the success of this organization and that player over the last four years. I just can’t think of a better way for him to go out on top then taking one last run at another cup. That is a remarkable accomplishment for the team and for the player. “
During Beckham’s interviews with the media on Tuesday, Beckham admitted that Leiweke did try to convince him to stay, but even though he was departing Los Angeles his commitment to the Galaxy and MLS will not change.
Leiweke admitted that he did attempt to sway the midfielder, but it was time for him and for the Galaxy.
“What I care for is David the individual more than David the player. You know, he’s taken some hits this year, I actually was a little worried about him at the end of the game in Seattle. I think he’s making the right decision here,” Leiweke said. “I think he’s given us all he has, I think he’s done exactly what he’s set out to do and I think it’s rare in life that a man can walk away with his head held high and his goals intact and he’s going to do that here.”
“I think he did a phenomenal job and everything that he set out to do,” Leiweke added. “I’m grateful for the way that he handled it, for his professionalism, for the environment that he created with our organization and the locker room and for the kind of teammate that he was especially for the young kids. David’s been a very good influence.”
CARSON, Calif. – In a little more than a week, the LA Galaxy will play for their fourth MLS Cup title on Dec. 1 against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center. If that wasn't enough to build hoopla, the match will also serve as the final game for David Beckham with the Galaxy.
While Beckham’s finale will make headlines worldwide, Galaxy believe that it does not overshadow LA’s bid for the title.
“No, obviously they’re very aware of their timing, their announcing it and when. For us it doesn’t change anything. This team is very used to having a lot of attention on it,” affirmed Galaxy captain Landon Donovan. “For different reasons, I actually think it’s probably a good thing. He’s certainly going to be very motivated, as if he wouldn't be anyway. And for all of us who have been around him a long time we want to send him out on a good note.”
Beckham is quick to agree that the drama of MLS Cup only adds to the emotion surrounding his finale with LA.
“It’s been my home for the last six years, I've had some amazing times, one or two difficult times, but I've had some amazing memories here in this stadium and with this team,” said Beckham. “To be able to finish my career as a galaxy player in my own stadium, in a Cup final is special enough. Hopefully, to win it would finish everything off for me.”
The Galaxy midfielder is not alone in that sentiment as head coach Bruce Arena believes that it could augment Beckham’s career with LA that has seen him make 98 regular season appearances, tallying 18 goals and 40 assists in six seasons with LA.
“I think it will contribute to a great day,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “I think it will make for a fabulous event.”
But the Galaxy boss is quick to admit that it will be no easy task for LA or Beckham as the Houston Dynamo pose a real challenge for LA.
“Obviously our team wants to win the Cup and certainly for David to get two and a row would be great,” said Arena. “But I forewarn you, our opponent is going to be extremely difficult to beat. Houston is a very good team right now and they’re going to be very difficult team to beat.”
CARSON, Calif. – What’s next for David Beckham?
The 37-year-old midfielder will play his final game for the LA Galaxy on Dec. 1 in the 2012 MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo at The Home Depot Center, but where he ends up has led to much speculation. One this is for certain, however, as the midfielder believes that he has another challenge left.
"I still feel that I have something left in me as a player," said Beckham. "I still feel like I have one more challenge in me as a player, even at 37 years old. I still can play at a high level. Where that will be yet I haven't decided. I have some exciting opportunities on the table. But right now my focus is on the final."
During his press conference, Beckham issued an emphatic “no” to the prospect of staying in MLS or retirement.
"People have talked about my retirement. People have mentioned when I'd retire," said Beckham. "And I actually don't feel as if I'm ready to retire yet. So that's not one of my options right now."
Those options off the table, there are a multitude of others that have been bandied about where he'll end up next.
“I do have exciting and some interesting options on the table. Over my career I’ve had many rumors said about where I’m going to be playing, what teams I’m going to be joining and even at 37-years-old that has not changed. I’m sure that will continue to happen until I’ve made my decision. I haven’t made any decision right now because my full focus is on the final in ten days."
And when will this decision come?
“Everyone will know probably by the New Year,” he affirmed.
CARSON, Calif. – David Beckham’s time with the LA Galaxy may be winding down, but that did not save him from a little bit of friendly banter from his teammates on Tuesday morning.
The LA Galaxy announced on Monday that Beckham will play his final game for the club in the 2012 MLS Cup Final, but head coach Bruce Arena informed the entire team on Tuesday.
With the announcement official, Beckham’s teammates had their own reaction to his departure.
“They gave me a bit of applause this morning and a little bit of abuse as well. That’s something that I expected. I’ve always said about it, I’m not just saying it for the first time here. These players are special people, they’re not just good players, but they’re good people,” said Beckham. “And that’s hard to come by, to have every one of the players be a good person. I’ve been honored and very lucky to be a part of that for the last six years.”
Defender Todd Dunivant was quick to explain the club’s playful jabs, but admitted that the rest of the club is excited for Beckham’s future and the future of the Galaxy.
“You always got to jab him because he’d do the same to you. It’s a little somber. He’s a great teammate and a huge part of our league for the last several years,” said Dunivant. “Obviously we’re disappointed to lose him and I think he’s disappointed to be leaving but he’ll have another chapter to go to and so will we.”
CARSON, Calif. – What will David Beckham’s legacy be with LA Galaxy fans?
That question will be bandied about by many over the next few days, weeks and even year, but when asked on Tuesday, Beckham had his own thoughts on what that legacy should be. The 37-year-old midfielder will play his final game for the LA Galaxy on Dec. 1 in the 2012 MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo, but while Beckham’s is set to, potentially, leave in a blaze of glory, it wasn’t always so.
During the 2008 season, Beckham’s relationship with the Galaxy fans was tentative at best during his loan to A.C. Milan, but since then, the Galaxy midfielder has mended any fences as LA has flourished over the past three years, reaching three of the last four MLS Cups and winning in 2011.
However, as he prepares for his final match with the club at The Home Depot Center, Beckham believes that his relationship has improved since those challenging days.
“[It’s] hopefully slightly better,” said Beckham with his trademark smile. “Every time I’ve been asked about the loan part, I’ve always tried to explain it, I’ve always tried to clear everything up and I felt that I’ve done that over the years and I felt that I’ve shown my commitment to the fans and hopefully they’ve seen that. I just want people to have enjoyed watching me play here and watching me work here, and that’s what I want people to remember me for, my hard work and the success that we’ve had as a club."
How will you remember David Beckham?
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CARSON, Calif. – David Beckham will end his tenure with the LA Galaxy on Dec. 1 with the 2012 MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo, but along the way, he’s had a significant impact on many players including Galaxy captain Landon Donovan.
Donovan and Beckham have been teammates on Galaxy since Beckham joined the team in the summer of 2007 and been through their share of interesting moments. Whether it was their rocky beginnings through Donovan’s comments in Grant Wahl’s book “The Beckham Experiment” or their embrace on the field after winning MLS Cup in 2011, the pair have been through plenty over their six seasons together.
Through it all, Donovan admits that the two players have learned that they are more alike than not.
“He would admit there’s been some hard times, certainly been some hard times for me, but through it all I think we all understand we all have some similar goals,” said Donovan. “Actually more similar than dissimilar, I think we’re all very proud to be part of what we’ve been a part of.
While it wasn’t always a smooth relationship between the pair, Donovan admits that he’s grown not just as a player, but as a person since Beckham arrived.
“[Beckham’s departure] doesn’t impact my personal future. But I’ve grown a lot. Forget about the soccer part. I’ve grown a lot as a person since he’s been here. I’ve watched him closely with all the things he does,” said Donovan. “His leadership ability, how he handles himself, it’s been an inspiration for me. We haven’t always gotten along, especially in the beginning, but he’s a good person. I think we’re all very happy for him that he’s ready to move on and do whatever comes next.”
I got a chance to speak to David Beckham in an exclusive interview for LAGalaxy.com.
Check out the interview below...
The fact that David Beckham will play his final game for the LA Galaxy at the 2012 MLS Cup against the Houston Dynamo has created a wealth of buzz in the United States as well as the "other side of the pond" in the United Kingdom.
Check them out above.