Carson, Calif. – The LA Galaxy Youth Academy’s U-16 and U-18 teams kick off their 2010-11 Development Academy seasons this weekend, but the real kickoff to the campaign took place two weeks ago at The Home Depot Center.
Ahead of the Galaxy’s win over D.C. United on Sept. 18, the U-16’s, U-18’s and the U-14’s, who started play this season in the LA Futbol Circuit, were all officially welcomed to the Galaxy family.
More than 75 players that will play for the program during the upcoming season were joined by their families to hear from Galaxy Head Coach Bruce Arena, Galaxy Director of Player Development Trevor James, President of Business Operations Tom Payne, and Tristan Bowen, the first player signed from the Galaxy Academy to the club’s first team, speak about the goals of the academy program and its importance to the Galaxy organization.
While speaking to the players and their families, James stressed that the academy seeks to not only develop players who can succeed at soccer’s highest levels, but they want to instill players with a sense of accountability and responsibility, build character on and off the field and give players the skills necessary to succeed in soccer and in life.
“We want to give the players every tool they need to have every opportunity to succeed,” said James. “We are trying to build talent, build discipline, and build responsibility. Soccer is 80 percent character and 20 percent ability.”
Arena noted that the Galaxy Youth Academy program is paramount to the future success of the Galaxy, mentioning Tristan Bowen’s rise through the academy system to the first team.
“We believe the academy program is the future of the LA Galaxy first team,” said Arena. “Our goal is pretty clear: we want to grow players. We want players sitting here today to be with the first team.”
The idea of one day joining the first team motivates many of the young players to continue to work hard. U-18 midfielder Alan Rovira recognized the incredible opportunity that the Galaxy Academy has provided him to grow as a soccer player and a person.
“It has been a great experience playing here for a couple of years now,” said Rovira, who was called up by El Salvador’s senior national team last month for two friendlies. “I have developed a better work ethic.
“I hope to go to the first team, to be up there with all of the guys that I have always wished to play with and hopefully I can get up there one day.”
Nati Schnitman, Rovira’s teammate with the U-18’s also has the dream to one day step out onto the field for the Galaxy’s first team. But before realizing that dream, he has elected to continue his education and play college soccer at Stanford, an experience that he says would not have been possible without having played for the Academy.
“Ever since I came to the academy, I feel like my personal game has gotten so much better,” he said. “Character-wise, on and off the field, I feel I have improved a lot. A lot of players, including myself, really want to make it to the first team and be professional players, and I feel that in this environment we have the opportunity to do that.”
With players like Schnitman and Rovira, it is clear that the Galaxy coaches and administrators have developed players with the physical and technical skills to progress towards a career in professional soccer, as well as the mental toughness that it takes to “make it.”
The only question that remains is, who will be the next one of these player to “make it” into the first team.