CARSON, Calif. – The competition promises to be hard and fierce at LA Galaxy training this week as four places in the starting lineup are up for grabs with Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez, Robbie Keane, and Jaime Penedo all away on international duty.
The very first test for starting role in next Saturday’s match against Colorado Rapids began less than 24 hours after LA’s 3-0 victory over the Earthquakes as the club’s reserves played to a scoreless draw with San Jose. In the reserve match, several players who are expected to be in the hunt for a starting role got the nod and had their first chance to stake their claim for a place against the Rapids.
“It’s going to be huge for whoever gets the chance to step in and fill in those big shoes. It’s going to be tough, but it’ll be something positive for us,” Jose Villarreal told LAGalaxy.com. “We’re all looking to get minutes to play and show [Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena] what we got.”
Villarreal and fellow forward Jack McBean are expected to be in contention for a starting position to fill in for the likes of Donovan and Keane. If they do get the nod up top against the Rapids, it would be nothing new for the forwards, who have started together the last time that LA hosted Colorado, back on March 23rd when the Galaxy managed a 1-0 victory thanks to a Mike Magee penalty kick.
On Saturday, they were once again dangerous as they were paired together up front for the opening 58 minutes before McBean was replaced by Charlie Rugg. Seven minutes later, it was Villarreal coming off, as he was replaced by Raul Mendiola. The pair were dangerous in their time together on the field but were ultimately unable to find the back of the net.
“We did well. We created chances, but we could have been sharper. Still, I think that we did well together,” said Villarreal. “Obviously, I know Jack and he knows me and we complement each other on the field. I have a great connection with him.”
The two forward positions aren’t the only places with absences as Arena must account for as he must find someone to fill in for his Designated Player center back Gonzalez and Penedo, his starting ‘keeper. On Saturday, Tommy Meyer received the start alongside veteran Pablo Mastroeni in central defense while Brian Rowe played the full 90 minutes in net.
Rowe made just a single save against the Earthquakes reserves and is expected to battle with veteran goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini for the starting role. Meanwhile, Meyer and Mastroeni were efficient in their reserve performance as they limited San Jose’s scoring opportunities with the veteran Mastroeni even clearing a chance off the line in the 64th minute.
Meyer is considered a frontrunner to replace Gonzalez and will likely battle with Kofi Opare, who was unable to make an appearance in the reserve game due to an infection. The 36-year-old Mastroeni may be a dark horse for the position as he looked settled in his first start at center back in a number of years.
Their first assessment completed, Meyer expects a heated week ahead as the fight for starting positions continues.
“That’s how every team should be. Every team should have competition and it’s always a chance to push each other. That’s what makes our team better,” said Meyer. “You’ve always got to fight for your spot and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com