Fully healthy Michael Stephens makes Galaxy preseason debut in RSL defeat

CARSON, Calif. – Michael Stephens made his preseason debut on Friday in the LA Galaxy’s 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake. The fourth-year midfielder had been sidelined with a right ankle injury for the past week.

Stephens entered the game at the start of the second half, playing 45 minutes —27 of those alongside another Galaxy player making his preseason debut: Juninho—in central midfield.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a big field; I’ve been in Chicago [during the offseason] playing small-sided [games] so it was a little bit different so I got through it alright,” said Stephens. “My ankle feels really strong actually; better than when I came in.”

Throughout the match, both teams struggled to generate a real attacking presence on a day that was marred by wet and windy conditions. Despite the result, after preseason victories over the U.S. U-17’s and the USL PRO’s Los Angeles Blues, Stephens felt that the rise in the level of competition benefited the Galaxy.

“I thought it could have been better. I think that they had the majority of the play. We didn’t give up too many chances, but we also didn’t create enough, but it’s our first game against an MLS team and we have a long way to go so we’ll get better,” he said. “The last two [preseason] games, everyone looks really good and feels really good, but that’s not the competition that we’re going to be playing against so it’s good play against teams that are challenging.”

The preseason debut wasn’t the only benefit for Stephens—and the rest of the Galaxy—as he got a chance to catch up with former LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who recently joined RSL on trial.

 “I’m happy to see him,” said Stephens. “I’m glad that he got picked up and settled because he’s a friend of mine so I’m happy to see him and it’s good to see him playing.”