CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Jack McBean can be forgiven if he’s still trying to adjust to his surroundings and isn’t quite as comfortable as he would hope.
Such things can happen to a just-turned 17-year-old soccer player trying to prove he belongs on the defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy.
And the fact he returned to the practice field only this week after being sidelined for almost a month with a sprained right ankle hasn’t helped matters.
But none of this has dimmed the desire of the Newport Beach native to make an impression in his second year with the club. He said he feels more comfortable than he did a year ago, when he got his first taste of life as a professional footballer.
“When you go into any team I think it feels a little awkward in the beginning, especially me being five, six years younger than everyone,” said McBean, who scored in Friday’s preseason opener against the L.A. Blues. “But this year’s been going really well so far. Not to be the new guy coming in on the first day, you already know more than half the guys in the locker room.
“It’s cool to be myself here, I guess.”
It was just over a year ago when McBean became the youngest player ever to sign with the Galaxy at 16 (he turned 17 in December), and was the first player to be signed directly from the Galaxy Academy since Tristan Bowen in 2008. McBean had starred for the Galaxy Academy’s U-16 team before being selected for the U.S. Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla.
McBean, who had been called up with fellow Galaxy homegrown signee Jose Villareal to last month’s U.S. U-20 training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., did manage to make a name for himself last season when he became the youngest player in club history to play in a regular season game. He also scored the Galaxy’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo last Oct. 23, becoming the youngest player to score for the club by more than two and a half years.
He was hoping to build on that momentum for this season, but his plans suffered a temporary setback when he hurt his ankle during the first week of January. He’s just now been able to run without any difficulty, but he isn’t 100 percent recovered yet.
“The only problem would be really trying to hit the ball as hard as I can,” he said.
McBean said he’s confident his frustration is only temporary and is anxious to continue to show coaches and teammates what he can do.
That has been particularly challenging.
“I think it’s always hard,” he said. “All of these guys are really good players and it’s always competitive in training and stuff. I just need to focus on putting 100 percent into every practice, every training session, every play and every extra finishing drill I do and try to get better.
“I know I’m still young and have a lot of developing to do and getting better to do.”
“It’s mostly mental. I know I can play with these guys. It’s just all about confidence.”