Inglewood’s Villarreal living South Bay soccer dream with the Galaxy

Inglewood resident Jose Villarreal, 18, who still lives at home with his parents, has become the first South Bay native to join the South Bay-based Galaxy from the club’s youth academy.

He spent his first day on the job Monday, not so much overawed by training on the same field as the likes of David Beckham as shivering because of the torrential rain players endured.

“It was OK, but I couldn’t focus it was so cold out there,” he said. “It was raining. It was freezing. I couldn’t feel my hands.”

Welcome to the daily life of a soccer pro. With a locker right next to the absent Robbie Keane’s, it’s an existence Villarreal is still getting accustomed to.

He grew up cheering for his dad’s Mexican team, Cruz Azul, but started paying attention to the Galaxy and MLS when David Beckham signed five years ago.

“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “I’ve got a bunch of friends who are asking: ‘When is your jersey coming out?’ (he was assigned No. 33, incidentally.

“I get a lot of texts, a lot of Facebook messages, (asking) ‘how does it feel to be with Beckham?’”

His answer: Don’t know yet (Beckham introduced himself and that’s about it so far).

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Diamond Bar’s Morgan raises the bar

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American girl: Diamond Bar’s Alex Morgan is emerging as the new face of U.S. women’s soccer (AP Photo).

Staff Writer Larry Morgan headed out to the USMNT camp at Home Depot Center to chat with former WPS top draft pick Alex Morgan, expected to become an ever-more influential figure on a national team that, frankly, needs exciting and photogenic stars. Read the story here.

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Wednesday Kicks: South Bay soccer players abroad & more

*Where are you going to watch the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan and his U.S. international teammate Tim Howard face Spurs and U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel? Kickoff is at 11:30 a.m. on Fox Soccer. A preview is here.

Tweeted LD: “Getting excited for the Tottenham game Wednesday! Won’t be easy…3rd game in 7 days. Time to dig deep and #WinFromWithin”

*The Euro dreams of Robbie Rogers, who grew up in Rolling Hills Estates, could come true. Rogers, who previously played in Holland as a teen before returning home a bit homesick, has signed for second tier Leeds United – providing he gets a work permit.

Tweeted Rogers: “Excited to be joining Leeds United! Really hoping my work permit gets sorted!”

*Yesterday we took a look at the Galaxy’s MLS SuperDraft prospects (which are really straightforward — wait to see what other teams do).

Chivas USA has an even simpler task: Pick fifth. That’s it.

Guess who the club plucked from the fifth spot back in 2006? Rogers’ good friend, with whom he played in Huntington Beach, Sacha Kljestan, now of Anderlecht.

Chivas USA also has four picks in Tuesday’s Supplemental Draft.

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Weekend rewind: Highlight reel goal from Lawndale’s Kamara & more

Catching up on the weekend highlights:

*Lawndale’s Kei Kamara is now just three goals away from last year’s career high of 10 when he scored a cooly taken winner for Kansas City Saturday in the 1-0 win over D.C. United.

Watch:

*And while I didn’t see a Daily Mail reporter in the press box Saturday in Carson watching the action on the field between the Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes highlighted by the perfectly written script of one Robert Kean, the English tabloid was moved to check out what was going on off the field in today’s edition.

*College programs have begun play and the Loyola Marymount women got off to a promising start in Texas, beating Texas State 1-0 Sunday, following up on Friday’s 3-1 defeat of No. 19-ranked Texas.

*In contrast, No. 25-ranked USC dropped two home games on the same weekend for the first time ever, a 3-1 Sunday loss to San Diego coming on the heels of Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Long Beach State.

*Long Beach State is 2-0 after a 3-0 victory over Sacramento State in the 49ers’ home opener Sunday afternoon at George Allen Field and the win over USC.

*Pepperdine is similarly 2-0, defeating Arizona 2-0 at Tari Frahm Rokus Field Sunday and beating Cal 2-1 in Berkeley Friday.

*The Cal State Northridge men walloped Cal State Dominguez Hills 5-0 Saturday; the CSUN women lost 2-0 to No. 9 UCLA Friday night at Matador Field.

Lastly, ESPN2 features the Tottenham Hotspur-Manchester United game at noon today.

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Two South Bay players win WPS awards

i-9b903fab84ab4a5363af217d14f87fe6-20080117_wps_medium.jpgPalos Verdes Estates’ Christen Press (magicJack) was named Rookie of the Year, while Rolling Hills Estates’ Whitney Engen (Western New York Flash) received the Defender of the Year honor in Women’s Professional Soccer.

Engen, 24, led the regular season champions to a 13-2-2 record and missed just one game (while on national team duty) all season; Press, the reigning 2010 MAC Hermann trophy winner out of Stanford, scored eight goals for magicJack – almost one-third of the team’s total – and just two behind former LA Sol striker Marta, who took the Golden Boot Award despite playing in just 14 games.

“It’s a huge honor to be recognized amongst such phenomenal players,” said Engen. “One of the main reasons I was even able to be nominated was because of the support and play of everyone around me.”

The Flash, the regular season champion, will play the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between the Philadelphia Independence and magicjack (live at 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Net) on Aug. 27 in Rochester (live at 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Net).

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Jokester Jimmy Conrad of Chivas USA nails one-liners throughout farewell news conference

i-835d30872590127d0af00ce83074b538-conradfarewll.jpgChivas USA Coach Robin Fraser, Jimmy Conrad and Chivas USA General manager Jose Domene yuck it up during the loosest retirement press conference in MLS history (Photo courtesy Chivas USA).

Like fans, journalists like to watch great players; players capable of fantastic quotes, we love even more.

They are far, far more rare.

Here’s Chivas USA central defender Jimmy Conrad’s farewell address

Athletes don’t like to talk about concussions; Conrad was no exception:

“The biggest relief (now that I’m retiring) is that now I can tell everyone what happened and I can get on with my modeling career.”

Jimmy, thanks for a great 13 years. Reporters everywhere will miss you.

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Manchester City officially announce U.S. tour roster, former Galaxy striker Gordon traded (again) & more

i-90a01f6edbf1482faa0cc70d513a24f4-carlostevez.jpgMissing star: Manchester City’s Carlos Tevez, arguably the club’s biggest star – and box office draw – won’t play against the Galaxy later this month. The forward, who wants to exit the club, is seen here training with Argentina at Copa America (AP Photo).

*The Galaxy have released the squad for Manchester City’s U.S. tour.

City faces the San Jose Earthquakes and Vancouver Whitecaps in the World Football Challenge before heading to Home Depot Center July 24 for a game against the Galaxy. Tickets start at $30.

Striker Carlos Tevez, who is the subject of a $80 million (or so) bid from Brazilian club Corinthians and wants to move back home to be closer to his family, is not on the roster. He is currently with Argentina at Copa America.

Here’s the squad for the reigning FA Cup holders:

GOALKEEPERS – Joe Hart, Eirik Johansen, Loris Karius, Stuart Taylor

DEFENDERS – Jrme Boateng, Dedryck Boyata, Gal Clichy, Aleksandar Kolarov, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott, Ryan McGivern, Micah Richards, Stefan Savi, Frederic Veseli

MIDFIELDERS – Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong, Adam Johnson, Andrea Mancini, James Milner, David Silva, Denis Suarez, Yaya Tour, Vladimir Weiss, Shaun Wright-Phillips

FORWARDS – Mario Balotelli, Edin Deko, John Guidetti

*Former Galaxy and Chivas USA striker Alan Gordon is heading to his fourth MLS club in two years.

The Long Beach native was traded back to California today, joining the San Jose Earthquakes from Toronto in a deal that saw forward Ryan Johnson go in the opposite direction, while midfielder Jacob Peterson and defender Nana Attakora also made the move south.

“We are rebuilding the club and this deal was necessary to continue that process” said Toronto FC Coach and Technical Director Aron Winter.

Gordon has spent eight years in MLS, scoring 21 goals in 116 appearances including four in eight games this season.

The trade means Gordon is set to return to Home Depot Center Aug. 20 to face the Galaxy – unless he gets traded again.

*Speaking of former Galaxy personnel, Sigi Schmid has signed a contract extension with the Seattle Sounders that could bind him to the club through 2015.

“From the moment we hired Sigi I knew it was the right decision, and that he was the right man for this particular club,” said Adrian Hanauer, owner and general manager. “I feel that even more strongly today.

The two-time MLS Coach of the Year led the Galaxy to its first MLS Cup triumph in 2002.
Schmid, 58, grew up in Torrance and is the MLS career leader in wins with a 148-107-82 record.

*And while we’re hearing about Galaxy old boys, the last time I saw Pete Vagenas at a Galaxy practice this season he was just hoping to get back in MLS; now he has quite a different outlook on what really matters in life.

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Tuesday Kicks: U.S. faces Costa Rica in Carson in September & more

*U.S. Soccer announced today an 8 p.m. Sept. 2 friendly against Costa Rica at Home Depot Center that will air on ESPN2.

Tickets go on sale July 15 starting at $20.

It’s a rare non-January friendly in Southern California against a Latin American team, which U.S. Soccer officials customarily attempt to avoid because of their fan support here. The U.S. has a 8-1-2 record at Home Depot Center.

The two nations haven’t faced each other since the fall of 2009 when a Jonathan Bornstein goal saw the U.S. qualify for the World Cup in a 2-2 draw. Costa Rica were forced into a playoff for a World Cup spot with Uruguay and lost.

The U.S. will also play belgium four days later in Brussels (11:30 a.m. ESPN Classic). It’s the first U.S. game against the Europeans since 1998.


The matches against Costa Rica and Belgium represent another great opportunity to continue the building process as we move towards the start of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying,” said U.S. Coach Bob Bradley. “We will have the chance to look at a variety of players and at the same time challenge ourselves against two very different opponents.”

*The Galaxy reserves lost to their Seattle counterparts today at the HDC.

*The Palos Verdes Peninsula’s John Thorrington is still trying to shake off persistent injuries and add to his 52 minutes of action this season for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

*Fan voting for the MLS All-Star game ends at 9 p.m. tonight.

ESPNU has increased its college soccer coverage. From the press release:

ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network, will double its men’s soccer coverage and showcase the strongest women’s line-up in the network’s six-year history during the 2011 NCAA season. In addition to four more regular season games on its six-week schedule, the network will televise both the men’s and women’s ACC championship matches for the first time.

A total of 10 women’s – up from eight in 2010 – and four men’s regular season games will be televised throughout the fall.

*And no, you didn’t miss today’s column. I took Monday off; the column returns next Tuesday.

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Tuesday’s column: Five already on the MLS hot seat & a few words with the Crew’s Robbie Rogers

i-f199b456194f4e19ae81399da985bd1b-henry1.jpgThierry Henry: No. 1 in New York – for now (AP Photo).

When Juan Pablo Angel was introduced to the Los Angeles media after signing from New York in the off-season, he was asked about the weight of expectations in MLS compared to the pressure of, say the EPL, where he once played for Aston Villa.

Angel laughed and without answering the question directly, acknowledged that there was plenty of pressure in England, leaving unspoken the fact that in the U.S. most fans are interested more in other leagues than MLS.

Still, it’s a fact there are already players this young MLS season under pressure to perform for one reason or another and they are responding – or not.

Read more in today’s column about Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry, D.C. United’s Charlie Davies, Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, former Galaxy and Chivas USA forward Alan Gordon and yes, David Beckham (you knew I couldn’t write that column without mentioning him, right).

One player not featured in the column for space reasons, but who could well be, is Columbus Crew winger Robbie Rogers, who grew up in Rolling Hills Estates and Huntington Beach.

Rogers, a good friend of Sacha Kljestan, seems to have the same problem the former Chivas USA midfielder did on the field toward the end of his time in MLS when he appeared disinterested and stale.

An early pass Rogers attempted in the game against Chivas USA Saturday seemed to sum up his situation – it was lazy, inaccurate and appeared to show he doesn’t really care (although he insists the opposite is true in interviews) about MLS and wants out so he can head back to Europe after finishing the last year of his contract.

Rogers’ problem, however, is that he appears to be squandering his youthful potential and is failing to grow as a player. And the root of the problem, as he pretty much admits, is more psychological than physical.

Rogers is in and out of the USMNT (these days more out than in) and Crew Coach Robert Warzycha told reporters Saturday he expected to see more from Rogers considering his potential.

Rogers did not disagree when he talked to reporters after the game.

Question: What did you think of your performance against Chivas USA?
Answer: “First half it was not great. I created some good chances for us, but it wasn’t my best (showing) and then I thought the second half was better, I created some chances and I thought I was dangerous, I got some fouls – I thought I was OK.

I agree with (the coach). I hold myself to a high standard. I think that I can do it more consistently. I think I need to be more dangerous. I think I need to be held more responsible for creating chances for our team. So, it’s something I really need to do this year. I’ve worked my butt off. But it’s not about how hard I work now, it’s just getting my mind right and doing it. So, that’s what I’ve got to do, that’s what I’m going to do.

Q: Is this a make or break season for you because you’re in the last year of your contract?
A: No, not at all. I’m excited this is the last year of my contract. I’m excited in the interest (from other clubs) I’ve had so far. I think so far this season I’ve started to get back to myself, I feel more happy on the field.

I think in the past two seasons there was a point in the first half where I haven’t really had the confidence to cut back and get a cross off and that’s kind of what I used to do. I’ve felt a little bit more like myself. It’s stupid to say you should always be yourself, but sports are difficult. It’s a mind game. Like I said I need to be more consistent and dangerous for 90 minutes and help my team out more.

Q: Is returning to Europe the next step?
A: Yes, of course, I want to go back to Europe. I think that’s every player’s dream here in MLS. I was close to making the last World Cup (squad) and if I really want to make the next World Cup I really need to get to Europe.

If I fail, at least I took that chance. Obviously I need to go there with confidence and be positive and just not let myself fail. This is the last year of my contract – I’m going to work off my butt with the Crew or wherever I am and I’ve just got to be positive and confident.

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Galaxy great Cobi Jones elected to U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame

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Cobi Jones, who grew up in Westlake Village and spent virtually his entire career with his hometown Galaxy, was elected to the hall in the first year his name was on the ballot.

His full biography is here.

Jones left the Galaxy coaching staff this year to join the New York Cosmos.

Also named to the hall: Eddie Pope, an anchor of the U.S. defense for nearly a decade and winner of three MLS Cups with D.C. United and Earnie Stewart, a three-time World Cup veteran.

From the press release:

Jones, eligible on the player ballot for the first time, was named on 87 percent of the ballots, while Pope earned a spot on 74 percent of the ballots and Stewart on 71 percent of the ballots.

Joining the players in this year’s class are Bruce Murray, a midfielder and forward who was one of the leading stars of the U.S. Men’s National Team in the late 1980s and early 1990s who was elected on the Veteran ballot, and former U.S. Men’s National Team and Kansas City Wizards head coach Bob Gansler, who was elected on the Builder ballot.

The Class of 2011 induction ceremony will likely be scheduled for this summer.

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