CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s J.T. Murray called home a couple of days ago to Grove City, Ohio, which is located just south of Columbus, and was told three inches of snow had fallen.
He reacted to the news the only way he could.
“I told them it was about 70 yesterday; sorry about that,” he said with a grin.
The second-year defender would love to continue spending his winters in Southern California and appears to be making good progress toward reaching that goal. The 23-year-old, a former second round SuperDraft pick of Sporting Kansas City who was brought in by the Galaxy just prior to the start of preseason camp, is backing up veteran Todd Dunivant at left back, having played in more than half of the club’s preseason games, including an 80-minute showing against Chivas USA on Thursday.
It wasn’t even a year ago when he was released by Kansas City and then went on to play for Sevilla FC in Puerto Rico before finding his way back to MLS, first with Kansas City again and now with the Galaxy.
He insisted he has no animosity toward his former professional club.
“I just learned I’ve got to let it go,” he said. “It’s over, you go on to the next one like this one and try to stay out here.
“It’s part of the business, I guess, so you’ve got to learn to live with it.”
Murray had come to MLS after an impressive career at the University of Louisville, where he helped lead the Cardinals to the 2010 College Cup national championship game (a 1-0 loss to the University of Akron), was a Big East All-Tournament selection as a senior and started every game from his sophomore through senior seasons.
Now he gets to learn from a highly respected veteran like Dunivant, who played in a team-high 43 of 46 games in all competitions last year and is a model of consistency and durability.
“To watch him, obviously he’s doing something right,” Murray said.
“Watching him every day is good for me. It’s a good picture he paints for me.”
Dunivant said the position is one of the game’s most difficult.
“It’s kind of niche position, there’s a lot of nuances to it,”
Dunivant said. “I think the biggest thing is you’re expected now in the modern game to do both, attacking and defending. You can’t just sit back, you need to be part of the attack, go forward and be up and down the line. There’s a big fitness component but also positionally.
“You’ve got to find the right times to go forward and the right times to stay back and find that balance, and that’s not an easy thing to do. That comes with experience and a lot of the tools that J.T. has, which are athleticism and a good left foot and good speed. He’s going in the right direction.”
Dunivant, about to begin his 10th season, said he and the team will benefit from the competition at left back.
“There’s not a lot of openings on this team,” he said, “but it’s a position that we need. With so many games this year, there’s going to be a need for that. You want guys to fight for spots; I want somebody to push me for that spot. Those are good things.
“It helps the team dynamic if I’m getting pushed every day and I’m pushing him. Then suddenly the team’s getting better at that position. All of a sudden everyone’s raised their game, and that’s what you want.”
Murray said he couldn’t be better off.
“Learning from the best players and some of the best coaches in the league, this is a great place to be,” he said. “If you want to grow as a player, this is a great spot to do it.”