CARSON, Calif. – Jack McBean has yet to play in any of the LA Galaxy’s matches this season and Jose Villarreal only recently returned to the training field after undergoing surgery on each of his shins during the preseason.
It’s safe to assume, then, the highly regarded Galaxy youngsters are eagerly looking forward to competing in the Real Sociedad XXVII Youth Invitational Tournament in Spain. McBean, 17, and Villareal, 18, were named to the Galaxy Academy’s squad that will take part in the first-ever youth international event the club has participated in.
The Galaxy qualified for the tournament by winning the Generation adidas Cup in Dallas last August.
“I’m really excited to get over there and play,” said McBean, the Galaxy’s first homegrown player signing who became the youngest player in franchise history to score a goal in last season’s regular season finale in Houston. “It’s going to be a really fun competition.”
“I’m just hoping to get a good experience out of it,” said Villarreal, who became the second homegrown player signed by the Galaxy and whose younger brother, Jaime, also is a member of the team heading overseas. “I was pretty overwhelmed when I was told I was going to go on the trip.”
The team, with the exception of Jose Villarreal, travelled to Madrid on Sunday for the start of their 10-day stay. For the first three days, the club will be based at the Royal Spanish Football Federation’s official training complex. The Galaxy will play a warm-up game against Rayo Vallecano before traveling to San Sebastian to start tournament competition. The team is in Group A with Spanish sides Valencia, C.A. Osasuna and host Real Sociedad.
Group B features Portugal’s RC Celta de Vigo, Greek side Olympiakos and Spanish sides RCD Espanyol and Gipuzkoa Konbinatua.
The Galaxy will play Osasuna on Friday, April 6, followed by Valencia on April 7 and Real Sociedad on Sunday, April 8. The winners of each group will meet for the tournament championship on Monday, April 9 at 2 a.m. PST.
“We’ve been preparing for it for a while now,” McBean said of the competition. “I know all the academy kids are really excited to go over there and showcase themselves.
“I think we’re strong and we’re going in pretty confident.”
McBean said he feels good about his game despite not getting any playing time with the first team.
“I feel really fit,” he said. “I’m just trying to work hard. My touch isn’t all the way on, but I just need to work my way through it.”
It has been a difficult time for Villarreal, who missed much of preseason because of the surgery in early February and only recently started to train again with the first team. He came on as a second half substitute in LA’s Reserve League loss to Chivas USA on Monday before heading to Madrid the following day.
“I’ve been out for about 10 weeks,” he said. “I’m just taking it step by step, getting back in shape and getting my touches.
“I’m just excited for the trip. I’m ready for the challenge.”