CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy Homegrown Players Oscar Sorto and Jose Villarreal may not have returned from the U-20 World Cup as champions, but the two teenagers felt that there were plenty of lessons learned during their participation with the U.S. U-20 side.
Results didn’t go the team’s way during the tournament as Tab Ramos’ side went 0-2-1 in group play with losses to Spain (4-1) and Ghana (4-1) as well as a 1-1 draw against France. Goals came at a premium for the U.S. in Turkey as they scored just three while conceding nine.
Both players were back on the training field on Monday with the Galaxy after returning for Turkey during the weekend. Even though the tournament did not go as the U.S. wanted, Villarreal was pleased with the experience.
“It was good experience to be part of such a huge tournament for youth soccer. To represent my country on an international stage was even better,” said Villarreal. “Even though the results didn’t go well for us, it was a learning experience for all of us. To see where other teams and other nations stand in front of us just puts in our head that we have to work harder and get to that level.”
The 19-year-old forward returns to the Galaxy with just a single goal in 11 league appearances this season. Villarreal had hoped that he’d be able to regain his scoring touch in Turkey, but in three appearances, he was unable to capitalize on any of his opportunities.
Now back with the Galaxy, he hopes to return to form.
“It wasn’t my best performances with the U-20’s. I’m not very happy with the way that I played. I just want to get back in rhythm,” said Villarreal. “I wasn’t supposed to train [on Monday], but I just wanted to get back in with this team. I’m happy to be back and I just want to start playing well again.
On the other hand, Sorto made two appearances coming on at halftime of the 1-1 draw with France as well as full 90 minute shift in the defeat against Ghana. During the tournament, Sorto saw time at his traditional right back slot, but also on the right side of midfield where he was stationed during the loss to the African side. The move paid off for the Los Angeles-native as he was able to earn an assist for his cross that led to Shane O’Neill’s goal in the defeat.
“It was a great experience. The games were intense, fast-paced and training was great. It was a great experience being away from home for a month and just playing soccer,” said Sorto, who also said that he gained an appreciation for the faster speed of international play.” [The Galaxy coaching staff] told me that I did well. I’m thinking that must be good for me. They told me to just keep it up and working hard.”
As for what the future holds for Sorto? The 18-year-old is simply planning to earn his way into the conversation with the first team.
“Right now I’m just going to keep on working hard in training and hopefully, the coaches will give me a chance,” said Sorto. “It’s up to them, but I’ll be ready when they call.”
First team minutes for Sorto are likely to be hard to come by, though the defender is expected to accrue time with the reserves as well as during the club’s play in Guinness International Championship Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. However, Villarreal returns to the team with a legitimate chance to return to the starting lineup beginning with Thursday’s match against the Columbus Crew.
With Landon Donovan departing the Galaxy to join up with the U.S. National Team ahead of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup and fellow Homegrown forward Gyasi Zardes having scored only once while starting each of the last six league games, Villarreal’s return presents yet another option up top for Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.
“I just want to get back into training and work hard. If I do well in training and show well, I’ll get my minutes,” said Villarreal. “It doesn’t matter if I get five or 35 or the whole 90, I just have to be able to have a solid performance.”
His days with the U-20’s complete, Villarreal is eager to continue his international career with the U.S.—either with the U-23’s in the run up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil or with the full national team.
“I think you have to take it step by step. This was one of those steps that I’m happy to be a part of. From here, I’ll keep moving forward and hopefully make the Olympic cycle or maybe even get called into a camp soon with the first team,” said Villarreal. “Most of the people that you see with the first team have gone through the U-20 World Cup or some type of U-20 involvement. It’s good that I got involved in that, and hopefully, I can move forward.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com