PHOENIX, Ariz.—One storyline may stand out above all the rest ahead of Thursday’s Guinness International Championship Cup match between the LA Galaxy and Real Madrid.
With Landon Donovan at the MLS All-Star Game and Robbie Keane still nursing a left hip flexor injury, the Galaxy will turn to their bevy of young forwards to score goals against Madrid’s defensive superstars likes Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, and Pepe.
No big deal, right?
To add to the intrigue, it’s likely that when the opening whistle sounds at University of Phoenix Stadium, LA head coach Bruce Arena will start a pair of Homegrown forwards as Gyasi Zardes, Jose Villarreal, and Jack McBean appear to be on the top of LA’s pecking order with Keane unavailable.
Although finding the back of the net against some of the world’s best will be a tough task, the Galaxy forwards are eagerly awaiting the opportunity.
“It’s going to be great. I’m going to take it like any other game. I know their status, but that don’t faze me,” said Zardes. “It’s just going to be a great chance to have fun and enjoy the sport that I love to play.”
“It’s a huge opportunity and a great learning experience for all of us against some of the best players in the world,” added McBean. “It’s going to be crazy, but once the whistle blows it is just another game.”
Villarreal and Zardes seem to be the likeliest tandem to start against the Spanish giants as both have started in the two matches that Keane has missed due to injury. During that time the two forwards have enjoyed mixed success as both found the back of the net in LA’s 2-1 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC on July 20 while both struggled—along with the rest of LA’s attack—in their 2-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids last weekend.
“It’ll be great playing with Jose or Jack because all of us grew up through the Academy system and to have an opportunity to play against clubs like this is going to be wonderful,” said Zardes.
Real Madrid will pose a new type of challenge for the duo as they look to bag a goal against star-studded Los Blancos. When glancing at Real Madrid’s roster, it reads like a who’s who of international superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Casillas, and Ramos. In a game that promises to be a fast paced affair, Villarreal believes that the most important thing for LA to do is pick up any extra tricks or tips from the Spanish giants.
“It’ll be tough, but the most important thing is that we have to learn from them and take in as much as possible,” said Villarreal. “As much as we take in from Robbie [Keane], Landon [Donovan], and David [Beckham] last year, we need to take in from them and learn from them.”
Even though the result takes a back seat in a friendly tournament, the Galaxy’s young guns are eager to put on a show for the expected capacity crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“The most important thing is that we have to have fun,” said Villarreal. “And like I said be a sponge out there and absorb everything that we can from them.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com