CARSON, Calif. – Despite being so close to his dream of playing professionally in Europe, LA Galaxy newcomer Jose Villarreal turned his back on the Old World for good reason.
“Being local and staying close to family, getting that warm feeling going home and seeing my parents made me stay here,” Villarreal told reporters on Monday.
The 18-year-old signed with the Galaxy in December, joining Jack McBean as the club’s second Homegrown Player on the roster. A native of nearby Inglewood, Villarreal is pleased to start his career as a professional soccer player living with his parents while playing for the defending MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield champions.
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Despite stepping into a scenario that would be the envy of many teenage prospects, Villarreal said he is not going to change his approach to soccer and work in general.
“Just stay grounded,” he said. “My family always tells me, ‘Always be humble, always keep your feet on the ground and you’ll succeed.’”
Villarreal’s individual goals for 2012 are simple:
“Getting along with the guys and being a good locker room partner and hopefully doing some stuff on the field,” Villarreal said. “I’m not expecting to get that much playing time, but one day…”
If McBean’s own development is any indication, Villarreal could see progress of his own. McBean played in a friendly against Manchester City in July and scored a goal in the regular-season finale against Houston.
Helping generate offense is what drives Villarreal on the field.
“I’m a technical player, going up in the attack all the time,” he said. “I like to give assists and every now and then I like to score some goals, but I’m a team player.”
It’s those attacking skills that caught the eye of US youth national team coaches, and he’s spent time with the US Under-18, U-20 and U-23 national teams. European clubs also showed interest in Villarreal, as he’s trained with clubs like Brøndby of Denmark and German sides Bayer Leverkusen and Kaiserslautern.
His professional dream has been realized in LA, though, and all he has to do now is keep doing what he’s always done.
“I have a bunch of friends who always ask me, ‘When is your jersey coming out?’,” he said. “I’m just trying to stay humble.”
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.