CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Hector Jimenez will be the first to admit he wasn’t sure if there was a place for him on the defending MLS Cup champions this season.
The second round pick (34th overall) in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft out of Cal-Berkeley played in just two regular season games in his rookie year, including one start (the season ender against Houston) and, frankly, wasn’t sure where he stood in 2012.
WATCH: Jimenez gets first MLS goal
But look at him now. The 23-year-old has started the last four games on the right side of midfield and has been one of the Galaxy’s most impressive players of late. Jimenez said it was all about getting an opportunity, and Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena has been giving it to him.
“He’s doing well,” Arena acknowledged Wednesday as the team prepared for Saturday’s game in Portland against the Timbers (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network, lagalaxy.com/gamedaylive). “He’s done a good job. We don’t get a whole lot of width out of our attack sometimes, and he certainly gives us that.”
Said Jimenez, “Bruce is giving me the chance and I’m taking good advantage of it. My teammates have been giving me pointers here and there and I’m trying to build on that and hopefully keep performing well.”
Jimenez made his 2012 season debut on May 23 against San Jose and scored the first goal of his MLS career just three minutes into that game. Mike Magee would go on to add a second goal for LA midway through the second half, only for the Earthquakes to score three times in the final 15 minutes for a shock 3-2 win.
However, Jimenez was not around for any of that as he was sent off by referee Jair Marrufo for a tackle on Steven Beitashour just before the hour mark.
The bad news continued for the Bell Gardens, Calif. native as the MLS Disciplinary Committee tacked on another game to his suspension, meaning that Jimenez had to miss the road loss to Houston on May 26 and the home win over Portland on June 17. Additionally, he suffered a quad injury late in the first half of LA’s Open Cup defeat at Carolina on May 29, an injury that kept him on the shelf until late June. He returned to the lineup against Vancouver on June 23 and has been in the starting lineup ever since, drawing praise for his solid play on the right flank.
“He’s been good,” fellow midfielder Mike Magee said. “Even from day one, in preseason his first year, I think we all saw something. I think his one problem was kind of coming into a team that was pretty established with veteran players and he didn’t get much of a chance to show himself in games, and when he did it was limited.
“Now that he’s had his chance and he’s been playing he’s going to keep getting better. He has a good soccer brain.”
Jimenez said his mental outlook is night and day from what it was a year ago, when he was a wide-eyed rookie looking to establish himself but not getting much of a look from coaches.
“I’m much more confident and relaxed, now that I’ve had some games under my belt,” Jimenez said. “The guys are giving me the confidence to step on the field and do my thing.
“I think I feel way more relaxed than what I did last year and at the beginning of this season. I’m just thankful the opportunity has come to me.”