CARSON, Calif. – If there were any lingering questions about the viability of the LA Galaxy Academy, they were answered in resounding fashion in the Galaxy’s 6-0 trouncing of Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the Reserve League finale at The Home Depot Center on Friday morning.
On a day that saw the Galaxy win their first-ever Reserve League division title, seven players with ties to the Galaxy Academy saw time, including Jack McBean, who scored twice, Rafael Garcia, who had a goal and an assist, and Raul Mendiola who set up each of McBean’s late goals. Mendiola was one of three current Academy players to see part in the win as he was joined by Oscar Sorto and Drew Murphy, who like Mendiola, came on as second half substitutes.
For the season, a total of 11 current or former Academy players saw action in the Reserve League. Current first team players Rafael Garcia, Kyle Nakazawa, Brian Perk and Michael Stephens all spent time with the former Galaxy U-20’s, while McBean and fellow Homegrown signing Jose Villarreal now play for the first team after starring for the club’s U-18 squad. They were joined by current Academy players Raul Mendiola, Drew Murphy, Oscar Sorto and Sebastian Velasquez, as well as former Academy forward Mario Rodriguez, who signed a professional contract with German side FC Kaiserslautern over the summer.
“It says a lot about the depth,” said reserve team coach Curt Onalfo whose son, Christian, plays on the Academy’s U-16 team. “Our Academy is getting stronger all the time. There’s been a huge emphasis on it since Chris (Klein) has taken over and been in charge of that.
“There’s a great correlation now with the first team. We’re proud of how that’s worked and it’s only getting better.”
Mendiola, who turned 18 in May, admitted he felt a little uneasy at first but has steadily grown more comfortable in his surroundings, thanks in large to daily training sessions with the first team as well as his time playing and training with the Academy.
“I’m still going with the flow,” he said with a grin. “Whatever the coaches [say to] do, I do it. I love it here.”
Making Friday’s win all that more impressive was that Villarreal, one of Mendiola’s closest friends, was not available as he was in Spain, scoring twice with the U.S. Under-20 National Team. Another Galaxy Academy player, defender Javan Torre who now plays at UCLA and played in a pair of Reserve League games last season, helped to set up both of Villarreal’s goals.
Then there is McBean, another Homegrown signee who led the Galaxy Reserves in goals on the season with five. McBean, who turns 18 in December and still plays for the club’s U-18 team, helping them to a 2-0-1 start to the season, said any one of the Academy members on the reserve team could step on the field with the first team “and not miss a beat.”
“We’re all really competitive in training every day,” he said.
His father, Jack Sr., can sense a dramatic change in his son’s field demeanor.
“I can see the difference in him in the last six months,” he said. “A lot. He wants it. I think he knows he can compete, he wants it more now. He’s a big strong boy. I don’t think he’s intimidated at all.”
It wasn’t always like that, however. McBean said he still thinks back to his first reserve game – it was his third day with the club – and being extremely nervous. He also said he missed badly on a couple of scoring opportunities that day.
But he didn’t waste those chances Friday.
“I feel a lot more mature and confident on the field,” he said. “If you had asked me a year ago what I wanted to do I would have said maybe looking to score a goal and I’d have no real confidence in saying it. Now if I step out there I know I’ve been working hard, getting a lot more fit and I feel good about my finishing.”