Inglewood’s Villarreal turns pro with hometown Galaxy

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Christmas wish granted: The Galaxy announced today that Inglewood’s Jose Villarreal has signed a pro contract with the team (Photos courtesy Los Angeles Galaxy).

The South Bay has always churned out its share of top class pros – John O’Brien, David Vanole and Robbie Rogers spring to mind immediately – and now MLS is giving those players another option: signing with their hometown club.

Today that dream came true for Inglewood’s Jose Villarreal, 18, a Galaxy Academy midfielder who has also appeared for the South Bay Force.

“It’s been my dream ever since I was little to be a professional soccer player, so to be able to do that and stay close to home so that I can play in front of my family and friends is a dream come true,” Villarreal said. “Growing up here in the area I’ve always watched the Galaxy and been a fan of the team so this will be a great experience for me.”

100 Percent Soccer reported exclusively earlier this month that Villareal was pondering the Galaxy’s offer, weighing it against interest from European clubs.

“Jose is a player that we have known and watched for a long time and it’s been great to have him in our Academy this past year,” Galaxy Academy Senior Director Chris Klein said. “He has a tremendous amount of promise and potential and we’re excited that he’ll be able to continue his development with the first team.”

He is the third homegrown player to sign with the Galaxy, following in the footsteps of Van Nuys’ Tristan Bowen (subsequently traded to Chivas USA, who in turn loaned him to a Belgian club for a year) in 2008 and Newport Beach’s Jack McBean, who turned pro at age 16 earlier this year.

Here’s more on Villarreal, who attended Lawndale’s Leuzinger High, from the Galaxy press release:

Villarreal is in his first season with the Galaxy Academy after joining the club from local club team Pateadores after helping them win the U.S. Soccer Development Academy U-18 championship in July, scoring 20 goals in 31 games for the club, including two in the U-18 Development Academy Final. This season, the skillful midfielder who began his club career with the South Bay Force, has scored three times in the six games that he has played in a Galaxy uniform as the team, which has a 7-0-2 record so this season.

In addition to his time on the field with the Galaxy, Villarreal has also represented his country, joining the U.S. Under-23 National Team for a camp in Germany last month and playing in a scrimmage against Azerbaijan. In addition to his time with the U-23′s, Villarreal, who is eligible to play for the U.S. U-20′s, has played for the U-18′s in July 2011 at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland, starting all three games that his team played in the competition, tallying one assist.

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Home sweet Home Depot Center: New Galaxy signing Jose Villareal and the Galaxy’s Senior Academy Director Chris Klein pose at the Carson home of his first pro team.

Incidentally, it’s conceivable that the Villarreal family could soon find another pro in the family: Jose’s 16-year-old brother Jaime plays for the Galaxy Academy U-16′s and is their leading scorer with 12 goals in eight games.

Updated

Also, I was just reminded by South Bay Force Coach Todd Saldana about the pros that have played with the club in the past: Robbie Rogers, Kei Kamara, John Thorrington
and John O’Brien. Now, that’s great company for Villarreal to be in.

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