Jose Villarreal aiming to recreate stunning strike in his return to face the Whitecaps
CARSON, Calif. – It arguably was one of the LA Galaxy’s goals of the year in 2012, but Jose Villarreal has barely watched his stunning goal that gave the two-time defending MLS Cup champions a 2-2 tie with Vancouver Whitecaps FC last July at BC Place in Vancouver, B.C.
Villarreal, in fact, said he had forgotten about the goal, his first ever in MLS, until reminded this week. He said he watched a replay of his memorable, 20-yard strike a couple of days after the game but hasn’t watched it since.
WATCH: Villarreal's first MLS goal in Vancouver
“I totally forgot about the goal,” he said Tuesday after training. “I haven’t really paid attention to it; to me it was just another goal. Of course, it was a good goal and helped my team out.”
Villarreal’s goal came with three minutes remaining and the Galaxy trying to salvage a point from a game in which they had been outplayed most of the way. Former Galaxy midfielder David Beckham chipped a pass over the Vancouver back line to Juninho, who then flicked the ball to Villarreal just outside the penalty area. Villarreal spun around the Whitecaps’ Gershon Koffie and let fly with a left-footed blast that beat Vancouver goalie Joe Cannon.
“A great goal,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said.
Villarreal, who returns to the scene of last year’s game-tying goal on Saturday, still remembers the play clearly.
Villarreal discusses scoring first MLS goal
“It started off with a good pass by David to Juninho, and Juninho made a good pass, laid it off to me,” Villarreal recalled. “I just cut to my left and just whacked it in.
“As soon as it left my foot I knew something good was going to come out of it. I just felt like I got a good strike on the ball and it went in.”
Villarreal, one of four Homegrown players on the Galaxy roster this season, has parlayed his success from last year into what appears to be a starting role on the U.S. U-20 team, which will play in this year’s U-20 World Cup from June 21 to July 13 in Turkey.
Villarreal doesn’t want to look quite that far ahead, though. He’s more concerned with his growing stature on the Galaxy, for whom he’s started three times and played in five regular season games this season.
The Inglewood native, who turns 20 in September, said he’s more and more comfortable in his surroundings thanks to input from veterans like Todd Dunivant, Mike Magee and Landon Donovan who have helped him navigate MLS waters, so to speak.
It hasn’t always been easy, however. Beckham, Villarreal said, was especially tough on him in the beginning. But Villarreal said he always appreciated the English international’s pointed criticism.
Galaxy in Five: LA vs Vancouver (7/18/2012)
“I don’t know if he thought I wasn’t good enough or maybe wasn’t in at the right time,” Villarreal said of Beckham, who now plays in France. “I just started showing him what I can do and it obviously helped me become a lot better, his pushing me.
“He was bullying me around, but it helped me out. I liked that.”
Villarreal, who has two goals in all competitions this season, said he’s pleased with his development overall.
“I’m extremely happy,” he said. “Bruce has done a good job developing me and helping me little by little, giving me more minutes. He’s done a good job with it and I’m happy to be part of this team.”
Arena cautioned about labeling Villarreal a “special” player, but he certainly likes what he has seen out of the 5-foot-8, 160-pounder.
“He’s obviously a little more experienced, a little fitter as a player, a little quicker technically,” Arena said. “It’s been a gradual process, but I think we see everything’s a little better this year.
“Obviously we missed him on a couple of occasions this year going with the U-20s, and that put him behind the group a little bit. But now he’s catching up.”
Jose Villarreal on the All-Access Podcast (09/06/2012)