When the Los Angeles Galaxy faced off against Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors, the friendly seemingly provided supporters nothing more than a chance to watch a match.
However, for some of the Galaxy’s younger players, playing against and beating a world-renowned club provided a unique opportunity. Not only did it give the players an opportunity to see a different kind of game, it also gave their confidence a boost to know that they can compete --and succeed-- against international talent.
“It was great,” Galaxy rookie Michael Stephens said. “I’d been looking forward to it as soon as we heard about it just because it’s a little bit of a change of scenery and a different type of opponent, obviously one that is a very, very strong side, a really good South American team. Games like that are huge, especially for a young guy like myself, to gain experience from.”
As the Galaxy prepare for their upcoming match against fellow undefeated side Columbus Crew on Saturday, Stephens and Tristan Bowen could be looked upon to provide more than just support. Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle are both officially on the US World Cup team and will miss the next three Galaxy games and possibly more in late June and early July, when MLS play resumes.
For Bowen and Stephens, finding successes against Boca Juniors and in previous games is a positive sign that the youngsters will help ease the stars’ absence.
“Everybody is getting a lot more minutes and the guys who haven’t played as many minutes have to step up. We did a great job (against Boca),” Bowen said. “We worked hard as a team and that’s been our secret for the last two years. Being able to get two wins without Edson and LD is tremendous.”
Bowen and Stephens played more than just a bit part in the Galaxy’s win over Boca Juniors. With the match scoreless in the final minutes, Bowen took a ball from about 40 yards out and fed it to Mike Magee on the right flank. Magee crossed the ball to Stephens, who pushed it towards Bowen. The forward then buried the ball in the back of the net to give the Galaxy a 1-0 win.
Bowen also set up the Galaxy’s only goal in a 1-0 win at FC Dallas on May 20. For the teenager, strong performances are the result of trust and support.
“Bruce [Arena] has put a lot of trust in me and I’m just getting a lot of information from the guys who have more experience than me,” Bowen said. “They are making my job a lot easier, just listening to them and taking in as much as possible.”
For Bowen and Stephens, the maturation process is likely to continue this year. The duo will likely be counted on to face Columbus, Houston (on June 5) and Real Salt Lake (June 9), as well as participate in a Galaxy schedule congested with tournaments in late summer and early fall.