CARSON, Calif. – You remember the LA Galaxy’s Kenney Walker, don’t you?
He was a second-round draft pick out of the University of Louisville in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft but quickly vanished from the team’s radar. He didn’t get a single minute of playing time last year and got in only one game as a rookie.
But now look at the 25-year-old, who began to attract some attention with Galaxy II and was named the USL PRO Player of the Week in late March. He has started the last two games in midfield in place of Marcelo Sarvas, who continues to recover from a sprained ligament in his left knee, and has played a significant role in the Galaxy’s two-game winning streak heading into Sunday’s game in Chicago against the Fire.
“It’s just fun being out there,” Walker said after training this week, “and getting the results we want certainly helps that.”
Sarvas, the usual partner in midfield with Juninho, is close to being 100 percent and even played 60 minutes in LA Galaxy II’s 5-0 victory over Oklahoma City Energy FC on Sunday. But the popular veteran could have a tough time regaining his starting role from Walker, who has drawn rave reviews for his play.
“He’s done well,” the Galaxy’s Robbie Keane said. “He’s a good football player and plays fairly simple. Sometimes the simple balls are the most effective balls. You’ve seen him the last two games where he can split defenses with 10, 15-yard passes. That can take two, three players out of the game.
“It’s important he continues to do that because we have other players who can do other stuff.”
Added head coach Bruce Arena, “He’s played well. We know he’s a good player. When you get an opportunity you have to take advantage of it."
Things didn’t always look so promising for Walker. Far from it. He admitted he sometimes grew discouraged over his lack of playing time, but he also realized the Galaxy’s roster was loaded at his position and he simply had to wait for his chance. He tried to learn as much as he could along the way.
“The players ahead of me were all great players,” he said. “When I first came in David (Beckham) was here, Juni (Juninho) was here. It was great learning from them. Even though I wasn’t playing the game, every day on the training field I was learning something from them and seeing how they carried themselves and translating that into my play.
“It’s been a great treat so far. Now it’s time for me to show what I can do and support the team out on the field.”
The more opportunities he receives, Walker said, the more his confidence grows.
“I feel pretty comfortable,” he said. “It’s easy when you put all the players around you that are out there. It helps a lot when you have (Landon) Donovan and Keane. If I ever get in trouble, I just look for those guys, give them the ball and move again.
“I was a little nervous at first, playing for the first time, but it’s all part of the game. That’s why you play, to get put in those moments.”