CARSON, Calif. – First impressions sometimes can be lasting ones, and that’s apparently the case with new LA Galaxy midfielder Nigel de Jong.
The former Dutch international drew rave reviews for his 54-minute appearance in last Saturday’s 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes in a preseason game in Las Vegas and came as advertised. De Jong, who signed with the Galaxy earlier this month, was physical, he organized his defense and his commanding presence on the field played an integral role in the shutout.
“He’s been fantastic,” fellow midfielder Sebastian Lletget said. “You can see the difference when he’s on the field.
“He has a presence.”
The 31-year-old de Jong, most recently with Serie A power AC Milan, made 81 appearances for the Netherlands national team and represented the Dutch at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He also arrives stateside with the reputation as being one of the game’s toughest and most physical players but Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena is more interested in the impact a seasoned veteran such as de Jong will have on a group of young midfielders that includes Rafael Garcia, 25; Baggio Husidic, 28; Sebastian Lletget 23, Ignacio Maganto, 24 and 22-year-old Jose Villarreal.
“I think Nigel’s experience and leadership will be tremendous for our young players,” Arena said. “We see that already. Obviously with Nigel, Robbie Keane, Stevie Gerrard, Jelle van Damme, Dan Kennedy, Ashley Cole we have experienced players that now are having a great influence on our young players.
“Our locker room is in great shape. They step out onto the field and they train the right way. And we’re hopeful on game day the same attitude is going to be there and I think we have strong leadership with our club this year. We’re going to ask Nigel to be a strong leader as well.”
Jose Villarreal went so far as to call de Jong “a phenomenal player.”
“Obviously we know him from what he’s done in his career,” he said. “He does everything well. He controls the tempo of the game, he can get in there at any time and he’s a great player.
“We’re happy he’s on our team and not our opponents.”
Husidic has been a teammate of de Jong for less than a week and cautioned it’s much too early to form a real opinion of him, but he definitely likes what he has seen so far.
“Obviously he’s a classy player,” Husidic said. “You look at his resume and it’s pretty impressive.
“I was just telling a friend last night it’s going to be great for us. Just to see how hard he goes even in training. He trains like he plays. I think it’s cool.”