CARSON, Calif. – It was just over a month ago when the LA Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal scored one of the biggest goals of the season, an 87th-minute strike that forged a stirring 2-2 tie with Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Villarreal, however, wasn’t through with his histrionics Sunday at The Home Depot Center. Villarreal, originally signed as a Homegrown Player by the Galaxy last December, assisted on the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal in a 2-0 victory over FC Dallas in front of a crowd of 21,933.
It was in the 66th minute when Villarreal, who had entered the game seven minutes earlier as a second half substitute for Hector Jimenez, stole the ball from rookie Dallas defender Matt Hedges. Villarreal then calmly dribbled around onrushing goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, spotted Juninho closing in on the net and passed to him for the score from point-blank range.
Todd Dunivant added a clinching goal in the 84th minute.
“I thought Jose was outstanding,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said of the 18-year-old Villarreal. “It was a really alert play. He gave a really solid 30 minutes.”
A native of Inglewood, Calif., Villarreal has been doing that a lot lately. He made his first start for the club in a friendly against England’s Tottenham Hotspur on July 24 and made his CONCACAF Champions League debut last Thursday, when he started alongside Robbie Keane in a 5-2 victory over Salvadoran side Isidro Metapan, going close with a pair of chances.
The soft-spoken Villarreal said he simply does what he can to help out the team, and he certainly did that Sunday on the game-winning sequence.
“The defender was caught asleep, I pressured him pretty hard and it bounced off my foot,” Villarreal said. “I took the touch right by the keeper, I saw Juninho, just passed to him and he put it in.”
Villarreal looked like a veteran as he calmly rounded Hartman, rather than a rookie who had played in just six regular season games, all of which had been on the road, and a total of 66 minutes prior to Sunday.
“I just took a good touch and went right by him,” he said.
Villarreal said there is no secret to his success, whether it was on his brilliant tying goal against Vancouver that completed a comeback from a 2-0 deficit or on Sunday against a team that is challenging the Galaxy for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
FC Dallas (8-12-8) had been on a three-game winning streak and trailed the Galaxy (12-11-4) by just five points entering Sunday’s game. With the win, the Galaxy are now sitting much more comfortably in the West – they’re now just three points out of second place in the conference -- thanks in part to Villarreal’s solid play off the bench.
“I just work hard every day in practice,” Villarreal said. “When Bruce gives me a chance to play, I just do my thing and try to help out as much as possible.”