CARSON. Calif. – Among Academy players, Raul Mendiola and Oscar Sorto possess a set of unique skills that elevate them way above their teenage peers. Whether it’s Mendiola’s calmness with the ball or Sorto’s talent for defending, the teenagers have helped set a standard with the LA Galaxy Under-18 side.
Due to their unique abilities, the pair has been afforded an opportunity to train alongside the Galaxy’s first team as well as earn minutes for the Galaxy Reserves—Mendiola making seven appearances to Sorto’s six. However, when they’re not training alongside the likes of David Beckham and Landon Donovan, the duo log heavy minutes—along with Homegrown players Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal—with the Galaxy Under-18’s.
On Sunday, Mendiola, Sorto and McBean played significant minutes during the Galaxy U-18’s 3-1 victory over the Chivas USA U-18’s. In the match, McBean tallied a goal while Mendiola and Sorto both had strong matches. But as the youngsters flourish at the Academy level, they admit that their experience with the first team has been profoundly influential.
“It’s different trying to communicate with the younger players because with the first team and the reserves, we’re more offensive, but here we’re more about holding up the ball,” Sorto told LAGalaxy.com on Sunday. “But I try to show the rest of the players that I’m here for them and I want to be their leader. I know that I have to work hard for me and for the team to show them that anyone can make it if you try.”
While Sorto hones his leadership skills, his coach with the U-18’s, Eddie Soto, admits that there has already been a profound change in McBean, who has taken a major role as a leader with the Galaxy Under-18’s.
“He’s taken a real mature approach to his role once he’s come over to our group. I’ve seen a big change on how he is with the teams and during the games,” said Soto. “It’s one thing playing in the stadium in front of big crowds and TV and then coming over here playing in front of moms and dads. He’s had a very mature approach and I’m very proud of him.”
However, regardless of if the player is taking a vocal leadership role on his side or choosing to lead by example, Soto is overjoyed with the development, both physically and mentally, that Mendiola and Sorto as well as McBean and Villarreal have shown.
“I think that the environment that we’ve created [at the Galaxy Academy] and the examples that we have to share with the guys…the guys that have made it and are actually there, it’s there for them to visibly see and touch,” said Soto. “With them getting the chance to go and train with the first team, it’s there and with the environment that we’ve created for them, it’s there for them to grasp and take if they want.”