By OMAR SHAMOUT
The Los Angeles Galaxy defeated the U.S. Under-17 national team, 5-0, on Friday in their first match of the pre-season. The goals came from
Mike Magee (9’), Robbie Keane (PK, 15’), Jose Villareal (49’), Greg Cochrane (50’) and Jack McBean (76’) provided the goals for the defending MLS Cup champions.
After the match, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said the most important aspect of Friday’s scrimmage was fitness.
“We were able to give 20 field players 45 minutes each,” Arena said. “You could see at the end of both halves we were tired.”
Omar Gonzalez, who just returned from U.S. men’s national team camp, echoed his coach’s sentiments saying players were “huffing and puffing,” even before halftime.
Arena started the first half with Carlo Cudicini in goal, and a back four of Sean Franklin, Omar Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer and Todd Dunivant. In the midfield were Gyasi Zardes, Marcelo Sarvas, Rafael Garcia and Colin Clark, with Mike Magee and Robbie Keane up front. Zardes and Magee switched positions late in the opening half. Brian Perk came on for Cudicini at the 30-minute mark.
The second half featured a back line of Oscar Sorto, A.J. DeLaGarza, Leonardo and Bryan Gaul. In midfield were Academy prospect Paul Arriola, Hector Jimenez, Andy Riemer. Jose Villareal and Jack McBean played as center forwards.
Goalkeeper Brian Rowe replaced Perk after 60 minutes.
Notable standouts were Greg Cochrane, whose attacking instincts looked good on the left side of midfield and Hector Jimenez, who was aggressive in center of the pitch.
The Galaxy next face L.A. Blues of the USL in a preseason match on Tuesday.
ZARDES IMPRESSES IN DEBUT
Homegrown Player signing Gyasi Zardes looked sharp in his debut. He was lively out wide and as a central striker, getting involved in the Galaxy attack on several occasions. The 21-year-old said he felt comfortable in either role on the pitch, though he’s more used to playing up front.
“I actually had a lot of joy playing out wide in front of Sean Franklin,” Zardes said. “He was communicating to me a lot.”
The Homegrown talent said he’s already “picking up a lot of tips” from Robbie Keane, even though the Irishman’s only been back training with the team for a few days,
“As we were playing Robbie and Sean were coaching me throughout the game and I really loved that,” he said. “Starting to pick up that chemistry with him – it’s an honor.”
Arena said versatility is something he expects from Zardes throughout the season.
“He has to be able to play both positions, and I think he’s certainly capable of that.”
CENTERBACK PAIRING STILL UP IN THE AIR
While Omar Gonzalez started the game next to the same defensive partner the ended last season with, the centerback said he has no idea who will be alongside him when season opener against Chicago on March 3 rolls around.
“I have no idea what Bruce is thinking,” Gonzalez said.
Arena said figuring out who the starting centerback duo will be is an ongoing process, but said the team is blessed with experience in that position, which makes for a pleasant problem to have.
“For the most part, our tandem of Omar and A.J. has been our group,” Arena said. “Tommy played last year, Leonardo played the year before, but at the end of the day, that’s a real plus for us. We have some quality and some depth in that position.”
DeLaGarza, who was an unused substitute for the U.S. national team in its 0-0 draw against Canada on Jan. 29, said he doesn’t mind having to compete for a starting job.
“That’s when people are at their best – when you’ve got to fight for something.”
Arena said he’s delighted with the progress that Leonardo’s been making this season, and that the 6-foot 2-inch defender hasn’t missed a single training session. Leonardo tore both the anterior and lateral cruciate ligaments in his right knee in April, 2011.
“Again he looked really solid today,” Arena said. “I’m really encouraged by his progress.”
REACTIONS TO BECKHAM’S PSG SIGNING
Arena and Keane wished the ex-Galaxy midfielder well with his new Ligue 1 team.
“I think it’s great,” Arena said. “I hope it works out he wins another championship.”
Keane said he spoke with Beckham on the phone yesterday, and that he’s “delighted” for his former teammate.
“He said he was in a very charitable mood, so I asked him for his Rolls Royce,” Keane joked.
Arena said he’s not sure exactly when his star forward will return to the team from an extended vacation, but said he hopes to know something “a little bit more definitive in the near future.”