Villarreal ready for new partner up top with Keane away on international duty

CARSON, Calif. – Jose Villarreal will have plenty of responsibility on his shoulders during the LA Galaxy’s next match on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.

With Robbie Keane away on international duty with Ireland, Villarreal will have a new forward partner as LA looks to rebound from a disappointing 1-1 draw to Chivas USA last Sunday. The two most likely options to partner alongside Villarreal up top are Mike Magee and Jack McBean while Chandler Hoffman and Charlie Rugg are also a possibility for head coach Bruce Arena.  

While Villarreal admits that the Galaxy will miss Keane’s leadership, he has given a vote of confidence to whoever steps in up top.

“Mike is a player like Robbie. He’s very smart and creative around the box and it’d be fun to pair up with him,” said Villarreal. “But if not and it is Jack, well, I know him pretty well because we played with each other in the academy. It’ll be pretty crazy if we started together because it’d be two Academy players starting with the first team so it’d be fun.”

Villarreal and the Galaxy will face a new challenge in a technical Colorado team that is a far cry from the overly physical Chivas USA side that played LA to a 1-1 draw. During the SuperClasico, Villarreal was a frequent target of the Rojiblancos’ defenders as the 19-year-old forward was fouled three times in the “brutal” draw.

“It was physical. There were some dirty plays here and there. That’s how Clásicos are and that’s how it is going to be whenever we play Chivas or San Jose or D.C. United,” said Villarreal. “It was a little brutal, I guess you can say, but it’s just part of it. In every Clásico across the world, whether it was America vs. Chivas de Guadalajara or Real Madrid vs. FC Barcelona, it’s just part of the game.”

As Villarreal ahead to an active year that will include a stint at the U-20 World Cup in Turkey as well as commitments in MLS and CONCACAF Champions League, the rough play could be a learning experience.

“It was like when we played Metapán [in the CONCACAF Champions League]. It was one of those games that was just more physical than technical, but that’s just the way that some games are,” said Villarreal. “It makes you learn since I’m just starting my career and it helps me adjust to different teams and how they play. It was definitely a learning experience.”