METAPAN, El Salvador. -- Michael Stephens has made his mark on the LA Galaxy, but if Thursday’s 3-2 result against Isidro Metapán is any indication, he’s proving his value as a leader, on and off the field as well.
The 24-year-old midfielder impressed during LA’s 3-2 CONCACAF Champions League victory in his efforts to marshal the Galaxy against a technical Metapán midfield. It wasn’t always easy, as Metapán’s speed and ball skills posed a challenge for the Galaxy. The night appeared to get worse in the 45th minute when Stephens saw a goal negated in the 45th minute after referee Hugo Cruz ruled that it had been in the goalkeeper’s possession, before Stephens slotted it in.
Stephens did not sulk over the play, instead providing a calming force on the field as Metapán would tie the match midway through the second half. Perhaps the, it was fitting that Stephens would put LA ahead for good, slotting a Pat Noonan shot that bounced off the bar the back of the net.
The work was hardly over for Stephens, however, as the midfielder’s clearances and timely tackles proved instrumental in helping the Galaxy maintain the 3-2 result. After Thursday’s victory, Stephens admitted that while he is just two seasons removed from his rookie’s season, he’s embracing his role as a leader of LA’s second team.
“I have a position of leadership with this team. The rookies this year have done a good job and this team has a real good fighting spirit,” said Stephens. “I think we’ve had a pretty steady line up with the first team so this reserve team has been together for most of the year. I think that really helped us tonight because of the continuity and being used to playing with each other.”
One player who has been the recipient of Stephens’ leadership is Garcia, who admits that his former college opponent has played a key role in his development in his rookie year.
“The guy has an engine that never stops. When we have players like that, it makes it a lot easier all around for everyone else,” said Garcia. “I played against him growing up and in college so me and Mikey have known each other for a while, but like anyone else, he makes everything simple. He helps you and gives you pointers and he’s a guy with great leadership skills, so when you have players like that the leadership comes out and everything else is much easier.”