CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy's teen forwards made quite an impression in Saturday's victory over the Colorado Rapids, doing everything except put the ball in the back of the net. It's a good thing Bruce Arena & Co. have so much confidence in them, because they could get the call again Saturday – and maybe in the big CONCACAF Champions League clashes that follow.
The calf injury Robbie Keane sustained in Ireland's draw Friday at Sweden, a knock which will keep him out of the Republic's World Cup qualifier Tuesday in Dublin against Austria, could prod Arena to stick with Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean next weekend in Toronto and perhaps for the following week's CCL semifinal first leg against Monterrey.
Villarreal, 19, and McBean, 18, were on the end of nearly a dozen opportunities against the Rapids. With better fortune, both would have scored, and LA would romped to a result more reflective of their dominance.
“I think they did well tonight,” Arena said following the match. “Each could have had a goal perhaps, but I think Colorado's goalkeeper played well.”
Clint Irwin made big stops on both in the first 10 minutes, knocked down a blistering Villarreal shot just before halftime, and smothered McBean at the finish to keep Colorado close until the final whistle.
Villarreal also nearly scored with a chip that Diego Calderón cleared off the line, injuring himself in the process, and McBean – superb all night at holding the ball in advanced positions – headed off the mark twice from good service.
“It brings back some memories when we played together with the Academy, and I had a lot of fun with him,” Villarreal said. “I think that me and Jack did a good job. We just went at the defenders. We didn't care if they were veterans in the league or not. It's a matter of us implementing our style of play and our aggressiveness.”
Both rued missed opportunities – Villarreal said he had “a couple that I should have put away,” and McBean, making only his fifth MLS appearance in three seasons, said he needed to “put one in next time” – but their teammates were ecstatic with their composure and tenacity.
“They were all over the field. They had a great game and were unlucky not to score,” defender Todd Dunivant said. “Maybe the youngest forward duo that I've ever played with, but they were great. They were fearless. That’s probably what makes them as good as they are because they don’t even know what they’re doing, which is a good thing.
“There is brashness there, and it works for them. Jose is taking shots and he’s aggressive, and Jack is holding up the ball there for us, and that stuff is going to add up. Those guys are going to be big for us.”