Former local youth club stars and college rivals reunited with the Galaxy
CARSON, Calif. – Hector Jimenez and Ryan
Thomas often talked about playing together again. They were teammates at Alta
Loma-based Arsenal FC but played at different high schools (Bell
Gardens and Claremont,
respectively) and were separated again in college. Thomas went to Stanford and Jimenez
attended the rival UC Berkeley.
But now their wish, once
thought to be pure fantasy, finally has come true. Jimenez and Thomas are
together again on the favorite team of their childhood, the LA Galaxy, after
Jimenez was a second round selection in the recent MLS SuperDraft and Thomas
was a first round pick by LA a few days later in the Supplemental Draft.
To say they are thrilled
would be putting it mildly.
“We had talked about it
during our college careers and always had a real good relationship, growing up
with Arsenal,” said Thomas, a defender who was a second-team All-Pac-10
selection in 2010.
“We had this banter back and
forth, ‘What would it be like to play with each other again?’ And now we’re on
the same team we grew up watching. It’s pretty unbelievable to actually be
playing for them now. There are no words to describe it.”
“It’s exciting,” said
Jimenez, a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 pick in midfield for the Golden
Bears. “I don’t think it really sunk in until I got here a few weeks ago.”
Thomas, who like Jimenez
used to attend Galaxy games at the Rose Bowl and later at The Home Depot
Center, was in school when he learned he was taken in the Supplemental Draft.
He immediately called his father Jim, who was in an area hospital having
surgery. Jim was with his other son, Ryan’s brother Mark, and the pair screamed
with delight when they saw Ryan’s name pop up on the draft tracker they were
following. A nurse ran into the room, asking what was wrong, and Thomas’ father
replied, “It’s OK. My son just got drafted by the Galaxy.”
Jimenez was at his
grandparents’ house in Bell Gardens
when he got the news that he was drafted by the Galaxy, and immediately called
his parents. He also said he quickly got deluged with ticket requests.
“Way too many,” he said with
Galaxy head coach Bruce
Arena said he takes special pleasure in such close ties between players. The
Galaxy, after all, feature a pair of University of Maryland teammates in A.J.
DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez, who already are two central figures on the back
line, as well as former UCLA teammates Brian Perk and Michael Stephens.
“I guess that stuff happens,
and obviously we want that to happen,” Arena said. “Down the road
we want our academy players playing for our first team, so hopefully this will
be the beginning of those types of long relationships, with players we’re going
to have from their early days up until playing in The Home Depot Center.
“I think they’re both good
players with a good future with the Galaxy. I think this year with the reserve
program it’s going to really be helpful to move those players forward.”
Jimenez, who earned his
degree in social work with a minor in education, said he’s slowly growing
accustomed to his new surroundings.
“I’m getting there,” he
said. “I’m starting to feel better. Walking into the locker room and everybody
saying hi to me, that was great. I’m really looking forward
to the opportunity.”
Said Thomas, “I’m still
trying to find that comfort zone, but hopefully I’ll get there. The guys are
all really nice and making me feel pretty welcome.”