CARSON, Calif. – Jose Villarreal burst on the scene last year with the LA Galaxy first team and quickly became a staple for his club and the U.S. U-20. But while the eldest Villarreal was scoring astounding goals, his younger brother Jaime has sought to showcase his own skills.
There are plenty of similarities between the two, right down to their maturity, size (both stand about 5-foot-8), and even the need to undergo bilateral compartment surgery. Jose went under the knife to correct the issue during his first preseason with LA in February 2012 while Jaime had the surgery more than seven months later.
Since the injury, Villarreal has blossomed into one of the U-18’s brightest stars with four goals in 10 appearances, many of the tallies coming during the stretch run that saw the Galaxy defeat Real Salt Lake-Arizona for the Southwest Division title. Galaxy U-18 head coach Alex Yi is well aware that Jaime looks to his older brother for inspiration as he tries to follow in his footsteps.
“I know that Jose is an inspiration for Jaime and Jaime was fortunate enough to play with Jose last year with the U-18's,” said Yi.
But the youngest member of the Villarreal clan has chosen a different word to describe his feelings.
“It’s motivation,” said Villarreal. “A lot of people expect for me to do the same as him, but just watching him puts my own expectations up high so I have to do a good job.”
But his older brother’s success isn't the only motivation for the young midfielder. Following his injury, Yi dared Villarreal to reach top level fitness and become a regular for the U-18’s. And with the Galaxy in the Development Academy Playoffs on the precipice of a place in Finals Week in July, with Villarreal contributing along the way, he has clearly passed with flying colors.
“My challenge to Jaime was to get himself to the level of fitness that an elite player should have. Everything that I've thrown at Jaime, he’s embraced it and taken it on. He’s always been a mature kid and he always had a very, very high soccer IQ. It was just a matter of getting his fitness back to where it should be…and Jaime is, I think, in the best shape that I've seen him with the Galaxy.”