Galaxy 18s complete 'worst-to-first' season

Drew Murphy's goal scoring has driven the LA Galaxy to first place in their Development Academy division. German Alegria/LAGalaxy.com

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While he was a member of the LA Galaxy's under-15/16 national championship squad a year ago, Drew Murphy watched the older version of his organization struggle against under-17/18 competition in U.S. Soccer Development Academy action.

"I know all of those guys, and from what I know it's just that things weren't going their way," Murphy said. "They were losing on the field, 2-1 and games like that, and by this time of the year, they're all graduating and looking to move on and they're ready for the next step, which was college."

Things are different, however, for this year's Under-17/18 squad, of which Murphy is an integral component.

"This year, we're comprised of two teams that won national championships last year, which was our 16s and the 18s from the Pateadores team," Murphy said. "So last year's Galaxy's 18s didn't have quite the team that we have player-wise this year, and to me, right now, we're coming on strong at the right time."

The Galaxy's 5-0 shutout of division rival Nomads SC reinforced the point.

Forward Justin Dhillon scored a team-high 19th and 20th goals, with one each coming from Rolando Munoz, Jose Rivera and Pedro Lugo.

With a SoCal division mark of 12-3-1 (20-4-3 overall), the Galaxy edged second-place Chivas USA (11-2-3, 17-6-4) and completed a worst-to-first scenario for the division title under second-year coach Eddie Soto.

"I took over three quarters into the season as coach last year, and last year's 18s finished in last place," Soto said. "Now, obviously, this year, we won it, so that's something that we're really happy about. It's the first time in our two programs' histories that our 16s and our 18s both won their leagues."

Murphy has 11 goals on the year, followed by Sebastian Velasquez with eight. Jose Villarreal and Mario Rodriguez each have seven each.

"Hopefully, with our record and how we finished within the league, we'll get a high seed," said Soto, referring to the June 24-29 playoffs in Frisco, Texas, the next time the Galaxay will be in action.

Oscar Sorto, Jeffery Payeras, Chris Antunez, Nathan Smith and Jevan Torre have anchored the defense in front of goalie Juan Cervantes.

"The talent on this team is unbelievable, we're coming around at the perfect time, and we're just as hungry, if not hungrier, than we were last year. We have that one under our belt, and we want that second one just as badly as we wanted the first one," Murphy said.

"We've had a great season, but these last few games, guys have really stepped up, and we have just been playing the best played games of the season for ourselves. Everyone is psyched to show the rest of the country what we're all about."