CARSON, Calif. – He won’t be taking the field during Saturday’s match against D.C. United or any time soon for the LA Galaxy, but one of the Galaxy Academy’s highest touted players Raul Mendiola is starting to blossom.
Mendiola started and went 90 minutes during LA’s scoreless draw with the Colorado Rapids reserves on Sunday. Known for his skill with the ball and his impressive displays going forward, the 19-year-old put forth perhaps his most mature performance for the Galaxy reserves. In addition to his characteristic ability to make darting runs behind the defense and combine with the forwards, Mendiola performed aptly on defense as he was able to negate Colorado’s ability to create along the right side of midfield.
“The hard work pays off. I know that I still have to work on some things, but I did well. I just want to keep working hard,” Mendiola told LA Galaxy Insider on Sunday noting that he believes that fitness remains one of the keys to his continued improvement. “I’ve learned from the veteran guys and I try to learn their positioning, both with the ball and without it. I feel like I’m growing little by little and if I keep patience then I’ll continue to grow.”
And Galaxy reserve team head coach Curt Onalfo is beginning to see that evolution.
“I thought Mendiola was menacing for a good 60 minutes. He fatigued a little bit, but he impressed me. He made a lot of things happen and you can see his quality in the final third,” said Onalfo. “He’s turning into a complete player and it’s good to see.”
Maturity is important for the young midfielder from San Bernadino via Ciudad Juarez, who has trained frequently with the Galaxy first team over the past year. At the start of training camp, Mendiola was not present as LA coaching staff—both at the first team and academy level—noted that they’d like to see more maturity from the youngster and after some personal reflection, Mendiola believes that the personal growth is happening.
“Last year was one of my first times with the first team and it was tough for me to get used to it. Over that period though, I matured a lot,” said Mendiola. “I have a mindset and I’ve talked to my family about my goals of being a professional soccer player, so I have it in my mind that I need to stick to this.”