Robert Mora

Former local youth club stars and college rivals reunited with the Galaxy

CARSON, Calif. – Hector Jimenez and Ryan Thomas often talked about playing together again. They were teammates at Alta Loma-based Arsenal FC but played at different high schools (Bell Gardens and Claremont, respectively) and were separated again in college. Thomas went to Stanford and Jimenez attended the rival UC Berkeley.

But now their wish, once thought to be pure fantasy, finally has come true. Jimenez and Thomas are together again on the favorite team of their childhood, the LA Galaxy, after Jimenez was a second round selection in the recent MLS SuperDraft and Thomas was a first round pick by LA a few days later in the Supplemental Draft.

To say they are thrilled would be putting it mildly.

“We had talked about it during our college careers and always had a real good relationship, growing up with Arsenal,” said Thomas, a defender who was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection in 2010.

“We had this banter back and forth, ‘What would it be like to play with each other again?’ And now we’re on the same team we grew up watching. It’s pretty unbelievable to actually be playing for them now. There are no words to describe it.”

“It’s exciting,” said Jimenez, a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 pick in midfield for the Golden Bears. “I don’t think it really sunk in until I got here a few weeks ago.”

Thomas, who like Jimenez used to attend Galaxy games at the Rose Bowl and later at The Home Depot Center, was in school when he learned he was taken in the Supplemental Draft. He immediately called his father Jim, who was in an area hospital having surgery. Jim was with his other son, Ryan’s brother Mark, and the pair screamed with delight when they saw Ryan’s name pop up on the draft tracker they were following. A nurse ran into the room, asking what was wrong, and Thomas’ father replied, “It’s OK. My son just got drafted by the Galaxy.”

Jimenez was at his grandparents’ house in Bell Gardens when he got the news that he was drafted by the Galaxy, and immediately called his parents. He also said he quickly got deluged with ticket requests.

“Way too many,” he said with a laugh.

Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said he takes special pleasure in such close ties between players. The Galaxy, after all, feature a pair of University of Maryland teammates in A.J. DeLaGarza and Omar Gonzalez, who already are two central figures on the back line, as well as former UCLA teammates Brian Perk and Michael Stephens.

“I guess that stuff happens, and obviously we want that to happen,” Arena said. “Down the road we want our academy players playing for our first team, so hopefully this will be the beginning of those types of long relationships, with players we’re going to have from their early days up until playing in The Home Depot Center.

“I think they’re both good players with a good future with the Galaxy. I think this year with the reserve program it’s going to really be helpful to move those players forward.”

Jimenez, who earned his degree in social work with a minor in education, said he’s slowly growing accustomed to his new surroundings.

“I’m getting there,” he said. “I’m starting to feel better. Walking into the locker room and everybody saying hi to me, that was great. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Said Thomas, “I’m still trying to find that comfort zone, but hopefully I’ll get there. The guys are all really nice and making me feel pretty welcome.”

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