There's nothing fancy about Grady Howe, yet he still manages to stand out for the LA Galaxy's under-17/18 soccer squad in U.S. Soccer Development Academy action.
"We're very dynamic as a team in the players that we have, but Grady doesn't fit into that role. He's not flashy or anything, but just honest, hard-working and consistent," coach Eddie Soto said. "Grady plays the central midfield role the way that it is supposed to be played. But what it is that he does more often than I see regularly in the sport is that he is a winner."
At 5-foot-10 and weighing 160 pounds, Howe is sturdy, but not imposing. He's been credited with one goal, well behind teammates Drew Murphy with seven goals, Jose Villareal with six, Mario Rodriguez and William Raygoza with five each.
Oscar Sorto, Jeffery Payeras, Chris Antunez, Nathan Smith and Jevan Torre anchor the defense in front of goalie Juan Cervantes, pacing the Galaxy to West Conference Socal Division mark of 8-1-1 and 15-1-3 overall. The Galaxy trails first-place Chivas USA (8-2-3, 14-5-3) in the division on points, but are in position to pass its rival down the stretch of league play.
"Juan's been our No. 1 goalie all year, but our back line has been solid and they've done an incredible job for us," Soto said. "They can fluctuate from the left side to the right side or in the center. They've all been very, very good for us."
But Soto credits the UCLA-bound Howe with being the catalyst for the Galaxy, who are 6-0-1 in the past seven games.
"Grady is just an honest, hard-working kid who, day in and day out, you know what you're going to get from him, so he's allowed the freedom to challenge anyone," Soto said.
"He's good in the air, and he's a ball-winner in the midfield, where he covers ground well. He's clean on his tackles and he's great. His energy is contagious. Grady's been a great leader and our most consistent player throughout the year."
Howe's mentality is all about the team, which has received one goal each from defensive midfielders Abel Leon and Jose Rivera and utility Sagar Jambusaria.
"Naturally, I'm a hard worker, so I'm going to try to win balls and try to do whatever it takes, be it dribbling, passing, shooting or doing the little things right," said Howe, a resident of Newport Beach, Calif.
"The only thing that matters to me is winning, so when I step on the field, I want to bring whatever I can to help the team. I'm going to do whatever it takes and whatever the team feels that I'm good at."