Catching up with Tristan Bowen
There never has been any question about the talent of the LA Galaxy's Tristan Bowen. The club wouldn't have invited him to become the first player in the club's fledgling Academy setup in April 2007 without it, nor would they have signed him to play for the club as a professional less than 20 months later.
But now the 19-year-old is on the verge of putting his impressive skills on prominent display. Now standing six-feet tall and looking more and more mature with each passing day, Bowen is likely to play a prominent role on the right side of the Galaxy midfield this season, a responsibility he is more than willing to tackle.
"I feel a lot more confident and the guys are definitely behind me," Bowen said Wednesday as he continued to prepare for Saturday's MLS regular season opener against the New England Revolution at The Home Depot Center. "They've been urging me to go out there and do what I know how to do. It's comforting to know the players feel that way."
The Los Angeles native originally signed with the club on Nov. 12, 2008 and in doing so became the first player in MLS history to be signed directly from his club's youth academy. Bowen, however, didn't get much of a chance from that point. He did play in four reserve division games at the end of 2008 and accompanied the team to New Zealand for a friendly against the Oceania All-Stars, but the 2009 regular season was spent almost entirely on the bench.
He went on loan to Hollywood United of the Premier Development League in May and later went to Miami FC of the USL's First Division, but his playing time a year ago with the Galaxy consisted of exactly one minute as a late game substitute during stoppage time of a 2-1 loss at San Jose on June 20.
But lately he's been close to a fixture in the preseason starting lineup and will get his share of minutes once the regular season begins this weekend. Galaxy assistant coach Cobi Jones said he could tell a marked difference in Bowen during a recent 10-day stretch of training camp in Arizona.
"He showed a lot of potential and a lot of talent," Jones said. "He's doing well and he's progressing nicely. He's still a young player, and that's what we have to realize, and he's going to make mistakes. We're not going to get too excited or too negative with him. For him, it's about consistency, doing the same good things over and over."
Added veteran midfielder Clint Mathis, "He's a good, young player with good speed and good feet. Those are things that can take him a long way not only in this league but his career in general."
"He's willing to listen, too."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena, however, said he hopes Bowen doesn't listen too much and wants to prevent any kind of information overload. Arena said he and his coaches purposefully have kept their instructions simple -- slip behind defenses on the wing, for example -- for their young protégé.
"We have to show some patience," Arena said. "We've tried to give him as many minutes as possible in the preseason to move him along, and we know it's going to take a couple of years for him to develop into an experienced and more confident and efficient player. He'll get there.
"He's a little bit ahead of where we thought he'd be. We're hopeful he can keep moving forward in terms of his improvement. To date the preseason has been real good for him."
Bowen said he's only scratched the surface of what he can do.
"I know what I'm capable of," he said. "I'm definitely happy my work is finally translating into game situations and the coaches are putting a little bit of trust in me to get out there and try to help the team. I feel ready."