CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy Under-18’s began the Development Academy with a bang as they crushed the San Jose Earthquakes 4-1 in their tournament opener. Not much time to celebrate, however, as they look to lock up a spot in Finals Week against regional powerhouse Dallas Texans.
The club that developed the likes of Omar Gonzalez, Clint Dempsey and numerous others held firm in their first group 8 match by playing the New England Revolution to a 1-1 draw. With just one team advancing from group play onto Finals Week in July the stakes will be high heading into Tuesday’s clash.
Although mystery is a common element in youth soccer matches, Galaxy U-18 coach Alex Yi is quite familiar with the Texans industrious style of play.
“They’re a very good club. We know Dallas Texans pretty well. I lived in Dallas for a couple of years and watched a lot of David Hudgell’s teams,” said the former FC Dallas defender. “His teams are very respected and have a very particular style of play. Also, they’ll be playing in front of their families and fans, so that will be a tough one.”
As for that "particular style of play," Yi describes it in just two words “very physical.”
“They will like to hit long balls into channels where they will have big athletic guys who will run down balls, second balls, pick them up and go from there. For us, it’s about being in a good starting position defensively and dealing with those first and second balls,” said Yi. “Also, keeping possession of the ball and not letting them find a rhythm. They’re a team that once they have the rhythm, they could really punish you. It’s about being very disciplined and clean on set pieces.”
The style may be different than the one the more technical Galaxy side play, but forward Jaime Villarreal sees more than a few similarities between the two teams.
“They’re very good defensively, and they’re a similar to team to us because they have a lot of Hispanics and they touch the ball really well,” said Villarreal. “But we have to be the better team, keep the possession, and attack smart.”
The two teams also have a long history of facing off against one another with one match sticking out above all others. In July of 2011, the Galaxy U-16’s defeated the Texans 4-0 using six of the players who will likely suit up on Tuesday. Although the Galaxy won by a convincing margin as they eventually clinched the Development Academy title, the match was marred by two red cards for LA.
With a chance to practically lock up Finals Week qualification on the line, Yi doesn’t expect his young charges to lose their discipline again.
“These guys will remember that. The thing that these guys have is experience,” said Yi. “They’ve played the Dallas Texans before and these memories don’t fade fast. They’ll know what it takes.”