Former LA Galaxy Academy player Paul Arriola’s career path could have taken him to MLS, but instead he opted for Liga MX side Club Tijuana, and the one-time LA Academy forward isn’t at all surprised that young players like LA’s Jose Villarreal are heading south of the border.
Villarreal is the latest in a slew of players who have left MLS for Mexico after he joined Cruz Azul last month on a year-long loan. Although Villarreal left LA on a loan, Arriola opted to sign with Tijuana last May after spurning a Homegrown contract from the Galaxy.
Arriola and Xolos will take on the LA Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal on March 12 at StubHub Center before the return leg on March 18 in Tijuana. Although hypothetically, Arriola could have been lining up for LA in the CCL quarterfinals if things had gone differently, he applauds players opting to play in Mexico.
“It’s good for American players who want to take a different route. Sometimes in [the United States] we’re not given the opportunity so there are other options and places to go,” Arriola told LAGalaxy.com. “Luckily for myself, my opportunity came and I was able to take it. Now here I am [with the first team].”
While Villarreal’s status with the Cruz Azul first team remains in question at the moment as he finds his feet in Mexico, Arriola is already in new head coach César Farías’ plans after making the game day roster for the club’s scoreless draw with Atlas on Saturday.
“It was a bit different last season because I went from a wing player to a second striker who sometimes switches out wide,” said Arriola. “It’s been different and I’m getting the opportunity to play so I’m thankful for that."
It’s that time again when we make our resolutions for the New Year in hopes of making our lives just a little bit better.
To properly ring in what promises to be an eventful 2014, I decided to make a list of LA Galaxy New Year’s Resolutions. Now this list ranges from my own thoughts about what the team needs to a few other ideas on how to improve the team and MLS in the New Year.
* Build toward the future: continue to offer playing time to younger players like Jack McBean, Rafael Garcia and Greg Cochrane. One of the team’s greatest successes of 2013 was that head coach Bruce Arena afforded plenty of valuable game time to players like the three aforementioned youth. With international commitments and injuries likely to cause problems yet again, the Galaxy boss should continue his policy of giving time to emerging young talent.
*Deal with change: There will be some notable absences from the LA Galaxy roster in 2013, but none will be bigger than the departures of longtime right-sided player Sean Franklin—who was selected in Stage One of the MLS Re-Entry Process by D.C. United—and Jose Villarreal who was sent on a year-long loan with Cruz Azul. Both players were frequent contributors a year ago and will need to be replaced in the coming weeks.
*Allow Juninho to receive more responsibility in the attack especially on free kick situations. The Brazilian midfielder saw his offensive impact stunted in 2013, but he’ll be expected to carry more of the load next season especially on set piece opportunities.
*That being said, LA must show more resilience on defending set pieces and second ball opportunities to prevent the deficiencies that caused the club to fail last season. We've gone over this one many, many times.
*Find a new center forward to play alongside Robbie Keane to add a natural target striker to the Galaxy attack. During the club’s final media availability of 2013, Arena stated that finding this type of player was priority number one for LA ahead of the next campaign and with the transfer window open; the Galaxy will have the chance to get their man. With a target presence alongside Keane, Landon Donovan could transition back to the right midfield and offer greater width to the midfield.
*Build off what was learned in 2013: Continued production from Marcelo Sarvas and Jaime Penedo. LA’s two breakout stars in 2013 were Marcelo Sarvas and Jaime Penedo who became regular members of the Galaxy starting XI by season’s end, but production must continue to progress into 2014. For Sarvas, he’ll likely need cede some of his offensive responsibilities to his midfield partner Juninho and contain his physical exuberance that caused him to lead MLS in fouls committed last year. Meanwhile, Penedo must continue to progress as a goalkeeper and cut down on mistakes that led to goals down the stretch.
*More professional growth from Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Rogers. The two attackers experienced inconsistent seasons in 2013, but the New Year brings greater expectations for both to provide reliable contributions for LA. If the pair can develop into offensive weapons, LA may have an added attacking dimension—particularly on the flanks— that was sorely lacking last season.
*Be more successful: Make a strong run in the U.S. Open Cup. The LA Galaxy have gone out in the third round in the U.S. Open Cup to the Carolina RailHawks each of the last two years, but with no CONCACAF Champions League waiting for them in the fall, a long run in the Open Cup should be beneficial for the team to provide minutes to their entire roster. Also, winning the USOC will help place the team back into the CCL for the 2015-16 tournament.
*Continue see the LA Galaxy Academy grow and produce players who could become valuable members of the first team in the future. LA Academy forawrd Haji Wright garnered a lot of the headlines toward the end of the year, but LA’s academy teams are continuing to show promise in the form of players like Adonis Amaya, Jaime Villarreal and many others.
*Good health to Robbie Keane who is recovering from surgery on both of his Achilles as he looks to get ready for the preseason. The Galaxy are hoping to have their captain back to full health by the start of preseason, but what is most important is having him fit and ready for the start of the season and the all-important CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal against Club Tijuana in March.
*Travel More: Get off to a strong start against Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal and keep dreams of the FIFA Club World Cup alive. The LA Galaxy’s quest for continental glory begins in March as they host the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals against Club Tijuana. With a victory at home, the Galaxy will be in strong standing as they look to advance past Xolos and reach the CCL semifinals for a second consecutive year in front of a hostile crowd at Estadio Calliente.
*Prosperity for Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan as they look to make their World Cup dream come true. Both Galaxy Designated Players appear to be strong candidates to make U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but both will need to stay healthy and in form to ensure a place on the plane to Brazil. If they’re able to reach Brazil, the pair is likely to be in Klinsmann’s starting XI and can expect to be major contributors as the U.S. hopes to advance from Group G over the likes of Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Here’s hoping for more moments like this one from four years ago.
*New ventures for the coming year: New MLS Television deals. Southern California is spoiled with the great Galaxy coverage on the Time Warner SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes, but in 2014, MLS will look to negotiate their new national television deals which will play a major role in the league’s growth going forward. More financial resources from national television partners can only help grow the league which hopes to be among the world’s best during the next decade.
*Continue to foster a connection with the readers of this blog and all content on LAGalaxy.com. What truly makes my job worthwhile is interacting with all of those that enjoy my work on the LA Galaxy Insider Blog and LAGalaxy.com, and in 2014, I hope to have greater interaction with you the readers so that we can place the type of content that you’re looking for on this space.
Happy New Year.
Villarreal was presented alongside fellow MLS players Rafael Baca and Michael Farfan on Saturday ahead of the move to the Mexico City club.
“Sending Jose Villarreal to Cruz Azul provides one of our Homegrown players an opportunity to gain additional experience,” said Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena in a statement. “We’ll monitor Jose’s play with Cruz Azul and wish him well while in Mexico.”
On Saturday, LA Galaxy Insider reported that the deal is a year-long loan with an option to buy. Any loan fee that the Galaxy receive could net the club significant funs that should be able to improve a squad that has dealt with salary cap issues this offseason.
During the presentation of their new winter signings, Cruz Azul sporting director Agustín Manzo admitted that Mexican club’s idea to add Baca, Farfan and Villarreal came, at least, partially through his “very good friendship” with Galaxy assistant Curt Onalfo who had told him “many times about the players.”
The Cruz Azul brass may be high on Villarreal, but with La Maquina boasting talented attackers like Marco Fabian, Joao Rojas and Christian Gimenez, Villarreal will have his work cut out for him when it comes to breaking into the first team. If the Galaxy Homegrown forward is unable to crack the first team, then he’ll likely be given significant minutes with the club’s reserve side.
“It’s not going to be easy here, I’ll have to win a place,” said Villarreal after the presentation in Mexico. “With a lot of effort on the field, it can happen.”
Jose Villarreal is joining Cruz Azul.
The 20-year-old striker was presented alongside new Cruz Azul signings for the upcoming Clausura tournament Rafael Baca, Xavi Baez, Marco Fabian, Michael Farfan, and Fausto Pinto on Saturday afternoon in Mexico. On Friday, the LA Galaxy declined comment on the reports of Villarreal's move to Mexico, but the club is expected to make an announcement early next week.
Although there are no official details on the move, it is my understanding that the deal is expected to be a year-long loan for Villarreal with an option for the Mexican side to purchase the forward. This could be a major boost for the Galaxy as Villarreal is likely to attract a hefty fee if he is successful in Mexico which would be used to further strengthen an LA side that fell in the Western Conference Semifinal round in 2013.
Presentación de los nuevos integrantes del equipo. José Villareal pic.twitter.com/lGBTdcHeFq
— CRUZ AZUL FC™ (@Cruz_Azul_FC) December 21, 2013
Presentación de los nuevos integrantes del equipo. pic.twitter.com/M7djGjqTcs
— CRUZ AZUL FC™ (@Cruz_Azul_FC) December 21, 2013
Is Jose Villarreal heading off to Mexico?
On Friday, Mexican club Cruz Azul issued a report on their club’s official website stating that Villarreal had joined the club for the upcoming Clausura tournament. That was followed by a report from ESPNFC also stating that Villarreal, San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Rafael Baca and Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Farfan were off to Cruz azul and were currently in Mexico City to undergo medical exams. It is worth mentioning that Villarreal has Mexican citizenship through his parents and would not count as an international if he were to join the Mexico City club.
When reached, the LA Galaxy declined comment on the report.
Sean Franklin is gone, but now who starts at right back in 2014 for the LA Galaxy?
The frontrunner for the position is veteran A.J. DeLaGarza who started 10 of his 28 regular season league appearances at right back in 2013. This move would allow Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena to start Kofi Opare, Tommy Meyer or Leonardo alongside Omar Gonzalez at center back while Todd Dunivant remains a mainstay on the left-side of the defense.
Meanwhile, behind DeLaGarza is Homegrown defender Oscar Sorto who endured a mixed rookie season that saw him earn a place on the U.S. squad at the Under-20 World Cup and appear in two CONCACAF Champions League matches for the Galaxy. Although the 19-year-old defender was impressive during the U-20 World Cup, he admittedly endured uneven form throughout the season including a poor showing in LA’s CCL group stage finale against Isidro Metapán in October. Heading into his second year as a professional, the Galaxy coaching staff will need Sorto to be more disciplined in training as he seeks to develop into a trusted backup behind DeLaGarza.
Regardless of what improvement that Sorto makes in the coming months, one would expect the Galaxy to use the MLS Re-Entry Draft or the 2014 MLS SuperDraft to bolster their right back depth.
Franklin’s departure will also have an impact on the right side of the midfield for LA as Hector Jimenez and Robbie Rogers appear to be front-runners to start out wide. Each player had moments of success in 2013, but the Galaxy will need greater consistency on the right next season. If Arena is unable to get steady production out of these two players, he may opt to place Landon Donovan along the right and push a player like young forwards Jack McBean, Jose Villarreal or Gyasi Zardes up top alongside Robbie Keane.
Thoughts on these ideas?
Share them below.