CARSON, Calif. – It didn’t take long for Daniel Steres to make his presence felt for the LA Galaxy on Sunday.
The young defender, making his MLS debut and pressed into a starting role at center back because of an injury to Jelle Van Damme, scored on a header in the 54th minute to tie the game as the Galaxy went on to rack up an impressive 4-1 victory over D.C. United in their regular-season opener in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 25,667 at StubHub Center.
Steres’ impact was felt everywhere. Even in social media, where the 25-year-old was a trending topic in Los Angeles.
He was superb on Sunday but paid a price that included a welt just above and around his right eye.
“I took a few shots in this game,” he admitted, “but it’s definitely worth it.”
Steres was a finalist for USL Defender of the Year honors last season as a member of Galaxy II and was named first-team All-League. He signed with the first team in December.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a while,” he said.
Galaxy head coach Brue Arena understandably was impressed with his young defender.
“He played very well,” Arena said of Steres, who was told early this week he would be starting in the middle of the back line next to A.J. DeLaGarza. “He played a number of games for us in preseason and we didn’t hesitate to use him tonight.
“He’s done well, but I thought he had a really good performance and a big goal for us as well.”
The Galaxy trailed 1-0 early in the second half when Steres sliced through the D.C. United defense – with help from a pick by Gyasi Zardes -- to head in Mike Magee’s corner kick from point-blank range for the tying goal.
“I gotta give Gyasi a lot of credit,” Steres said. “We’ve worked on a couple of plays like that and he did a good job.”
The Galaxy took the lead for good 11 minutes later on Magee’s first goal and then put away Sunday’s game with goals in the 83rd and 87th minutes from Keane and Magee again.
The soft-spoken Steres downplayed his impressive performance.
“With the team we have here, we have great players and great coaches and they gave me some confidence,” he said. “I was excited to get out there.”
DeLaGarza said the 6-foot, 170-pounder looked “composed and strong” and was not out of his element.
“He’s developing well,” DeLaGarza said. “Instead of Galaxy II you’re playing now against the likes of Robbie Keane, (Steven) Gerrard … day in and day out. For sure you’re going to get better and he definitely has.
“He’s pretty dominant in the air, like all the other tall center backs in this league … except me.
“He’s got a bright future and with the guys around him hopefully he can continue to grow.”