Patience isn't just a virtue with the Los Angeles Galaxy's Tristan Bowen and Yohance Marshall. It's more like a way of life.
Bowen, a second-year forward who became the first player in MLS history to be signed directly from his club's youth academy, and Marshall, a second-year defender who was not drafted out of college, got exactly one minute of playing time between them during the 2009 regular season. They entered this year's training camp with a new appreciation for the game and an understanding of what it takes to succeed at this level.
"The game's obviously faster, the guys are faster and more physical and it takes another part of the brain that you have to use," Bowen said. "It's a lot more competitive. And what the coaches require out of you every day is different than on the youth level."
"It's more of a mental game than a physical one," Marshall said. "I'm still getting used to that."
Bowen first came on the scene in Los Angeles toward the end of the 2008 season, when he appeared in four reserve division games and signed with the club that November. He has played for the U.S. under-18 and under-20 national teams and was called into the U-20 national camp last December. He did see some playing time in 2009 with the PDL's Hollywood Hitmen, then went to the Miami FC Blues of the USL First Division before coming back to southern California in late August.
Marshall, a former youth international with Trinidad and Tobago -- he was born in Diego Martin, Trinidad -- was an undrafted free agent out of the University of South Florida, where he started 73 games and was a three-year captain for the Bulls. The 24-year-old went the distance in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game against the Colorado Rapids last March, went on the disabled list that month with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee and was loaned to the USL's Austin Aztex in late June. He returned to the Galaxy the following month and was on the bench for the final five games of the regular season.
Both players said their rookie seasons were not what they expected, but they figure it's all part of the learning process.
"Coming in, I thought I was going to get more playing time and transition into the game a little bit easier," Bowen said. "It's so competitive. The one day that you don't bring it to practice other guys are going to show you up. You have to make sure every day you're on top of your game, and the little things are what count the most.
"Those are the things you have to focus on. Once you do the little things right the big things take care of themselves."
Said Marshall about his rookie campaign: "It was frustrating, but that's part of what it takes to be part of the team. You have to be there and you have to be ready when you're needed. It was frustrating that I wasn't getting to play, but you also have to focus on that you're still a member of the team and you still have to go and perform.
"No matter what, you have to be ready."
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has talked to both players about what he expects out of them this season. The emphasis for Marshall was improved fitness, but Bowen's instructions were more game-specific. Arena told him he might be used in much the same way as former Galaxy standout Cobi Jones, now an assistant coach -- roaming the wings and getting behind the opponent's backline.
Bowen said he would love to emulate one of the greatest players in MLS history but with one exception: he won't sport the same hairstyle.
"I'm a short cut guy," Bowen said with a laugh.
Bowen and Marshall emphasized last season was not a total loss despite the inactivity.
"Everything else this year is coming a little easier, now that I have a year of experience," Bowen said. "I'm much better prepared."
"Mentally I'm a lot stronger," Marshall said. "I kind of have a better feel for things from last preseason to this preseason. I know what I have to do and I love what I do."