Michael Stephens stakes his claim to LA Galaxy's starting spot
CARSON, Calif. – Mike Magee's abrupt departure has opened a spot on the left flank in the LA Galaxy lineup, right where new arrival Robbie Rogers plays. The job is expected to be his once he's reached fitness and form.
Not so fast. Rogers isn't the only player vying for the assignment, and if Michael Stephens can approximate the performance he gave in the Galaxy's 4-0 romp on Sunday night over Seattle, he's going to have some input into the decision.
The fourth-year midfielder might have been the best player on the field Sunday, offering up a two-way, do-everything showing that contributed mightily to the Galaxy's dominance and was perhaps his best individual performance as a pro.
It's what Stephens, 24, has always been looking to provide. The former UCLA standout started 21 MLS games as a rookie in 2010 but only 20 since. His versatility makes him valuable off the bench, but it's limited his bid to make one job all his.
“Of course, I do,” Stephens said when asked if he wanted Magee's slot. “Anytime you lose somebody that's been as experienced [as Magee], and he's had that position locked down – Robbie Rogers plays that position also. I think right now it's anybody's position to win, especially in this early going, so I just need to continue to have good games and, hopefully, continue to get playing time there.”
He's expected to be back on the left Wednesday night in Cary, N.C., where the Galaxy face the NASL's Carolina RailHawks (7:15 pm ET/ 4:15 pm PT, TWC Deportes, LIVECHAT) in a US Open Cup third-round match.
Stephens was a force both ways against Seattle, shutting down Seattle right back DeAndre Yedlin's runs forward and playing a big role in the Galaxy's mobile and intricate possession game while pinching in to open space for Greg Cochrane's effective overlapping runs.
He was, head coach Bruce Arena said, “incredibly busy, put a lot of pressure on them, his passing was good, got the ball off his feet ... he was active. I think his best performance this year. He played really well.”
Stephens knows he did.
“I had a great game,” he said. “I was connecting well through the midfield, as were all of us in the midfield. I think I did a particularly good job on the defensive side. ... It was one of my better games with the Galaxy, especially recently, so that was a positive thing for me. I'm going to look to build on that.”