PASADENA, Calif. – Ariel Lassiter may not be with the LA Galaxy first team quite yet but the Galaxy II forward showed that he has talent to succeed at the next level with a strong 45-minute showing in the Galaxy’s 2-1 defeat to FC Barcelona on Tuesday.
Making his first team debut, Lassiter entered the match at the start of the second half joining a youth-laden squad that consisted of nine players with prior experience with LA’s USL affiliate.
Despite going up against the world’s best club team in front of a crowd of 93,226 at the historic Rose Bowl, the youngsters from Galaxy II did not look out of place.
Showing little fear against the likes of Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba, Lassiter combined well with fellow Los Dos players Raul Mendiola and Bradford Jamieson IV. Although the final product wasn’t there, the chance to play against Barça was an experience of a lifetime for Lassiter.
“I was speechless to play alongside such great professional athletes,” said the Galaxy II forward, who was lucky enough to snag Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta’s jersey postgame. “They’re people that I watch on TV all the time, they’re people that I look up to, and to get out there to play against them was an honor, and a blessing.
“I was able to see where I want to be in the future. Being able to see myself in their shoes playing in Spain and Champions League, and stuff like that was just an eye-opening experience. It’s something that makes me want to work even harder.”
Lassiter acquitted himself from the get-go as the forward with eight goals on the season tested a Barcelona defense that was loaded with internationals. The 20-year-old came closest in the 65th minute when the forward streaked down the left side, beat a defender, but launched his shot just wide of the Barcelona net.
“Once I was able to get into the game a little bit, I was able to see the spaces. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to put the ball in the back of the net or my teammates weren’t able to find me, but it was a good experience,” Lassiter said. “The opportunities in front of the net are still in the front of my mind right now. Even though I may have had a pretty good performance as far as my appearance with the first team, I should be able to be able to put those chances in the back of the net.
“If I want to get to the next level, I have to put those chances in the back of the net.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena certainly agreed with the youngster stating that Lassiter must fine-tune his game—and take a page out of Barcelona’s own playbook—if he wishes to join the first team on a full-time basis in the near future.
"The young players, and Ariel [Lassiter], was in over his head as was [Ignacio] Maganto I thought in the first half, but good experiences for them,” Arena said. “Ariel [Lassiter] got into the game and got a little bit better, going forward he is real good but he still needs to learn how to go the other way, it is an important part of the game.
“I think the experience for our players when they see the spacing Barcelona has possession is incredible and you think about sticking Neymar in that lineup and [Lionel] Messi, with that kind of spacing, they cut teams apart."
But how close does Lassiter feel he is to making an impact at the next level? When asked, the confident striker flashed a smile and answered.
“I feel close. I don’t want to get complacent and I want to continue to develop who I am,” Lassiter said. “I want to continue to get better. There are things that Bruce wants me to get better to be ready for the first team… I need to be ready.”