Mr. Arena's finishing school: LA Galaxy's young forwards soaking up experience, waiting for opportunities
CARSON, Calif. – Landon Donovan's new deal means the LA Galaxy have two of MLS's best forwards – perhaps even the two best – locked down for at least a few seasons, which bodes well for the two-time defending champions' attack.
What it means for the five youngsters battling for playing time up top: more of the same.
Jose Villarreal, Gyasi Zardes and Jack McBean already are contributing to the Galaxy attack, and Chandler Hoffman and Charlie Rugg hope to do so. There are limited minutes available for them, but could they hope for a better finishing school?
“The good news with this team is we play a lot of games every year,” said Donovan, whose new multiyear contract was announced Wednesday. “On a team that doesn't have [CONCACAF] Champions League or international games in the middle of the season, those guys might play two or three or five games, but out guys get 10, 15, 20 games. And there's no guarantee that Robbie [Keane] and I keep our form forever, there's no guarantee that Robbie and I are healthy forever, so these guys are going to get a chance eventually.
“I'm sure on balance it's better for them to be training here than getting sporadic starts at different clubs.”
They'll certainly get a chance in next week or so, when Donovan and Keane are away for World Cup qualifiers. The Galaxy face Colorado on Sept. 7 without their stars, and with games looming against Isidro Metapan in the Champions League and a showdown with Seattle three days later, Bruce Arena could opt for second-stringers on Sept. 14 at D.C. United as well.
“We like to believe there's going to be plenty of games where they're going to be able to show themselves,” Arena said. “Not only this year, but in the future.”
McBean, 18, was in strong form before breaking his collarbone in April, and he's played in just five games totaling about 50 minutes since returning in mid-June. Zardes, 21, was Keane's regular partner up front until Donovan's switch to forward when he returned from the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and he has been seeing regular time in recent weeks on the left side of midfield.
Hoffman, 23, has made just one first-team competitive appearance but has five MLS Reserve League goals. Fellow first-round draft pick Rugg, 22, has made three first-team starts, but none since May.
“[Donovan and Keane] are two of the best players I think this league has ever seen, and it's going to be hard to start a lot of games and play starters' minutes with those guys both playing forward,” McBean said. “The good thing is every day in training you're fighting for a spot against those guys, and if you go get rewarded [with playing time], it's just that much sweeter. And they teach you so much, just watching them.”