CARSON -- The action meandered for most of the Galaxy's MLS Reserve League game Monday against Seattle, L.A. patiently trying to break down an organized Sounders defense without a whole lot of success.
Then a tête-à-tête on the flank saw Seattle midfielder Christian Sivebaek sent off, and the insertion of three of their brightest young players sparked some life into the Galaxy attack. Reward arrived at the end, with rookie Rafael Garcia's diving header in the 90th minute delivering a 1-0 triumph on Home Depot Center's University Field 1.
The triumph offered a tantalizing glimpse at L.A.'s future, with Garcia -- a former Canoga Park High star taken out of Cal State Northridge in January's supplemental draft -- Home Grown Player Jose Villarreal (Inglewood/Leuzinger HS) and Academy standout Raul Mendiola (San Bernardino/Rialto HS) skillfully carving open the Sounders to create a flurry of chances before the goal arrived.
The Galaxy is high on all three. Assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who guides the reserve side, spoke about each in his postgame scrum with reporters.
On Mendiola: “He's got great instincts going forward. He reminds me a little of [2010 MLS Rookie of the Year] Andy Najar, when I was [head coach] in D.C. Guys like that, you've got to let them play with their instincts and just create things, and that's certainly what he did when he came into the game.”
On Villarreal: “Instinctally, he's very, very good, very comfortable on the ball. He's got to continue to develop to the speed of play, and when they do that consistently, that's when you see more success.
On Garcia: “I love him, I have to say. I’ve always liked him. I loved him in college and was just glad we got him. Sometimes it’s difficult for me and for him, because we’ve got other guys who need to get minutes. Today [Marcelo] Sarvas needed minutes, which meant [Garcia] was coming off the bench. He deserves to be on the field. My message to him was to make the most of your opportunity. Sometimes playing 30 minutes is more important than playing 90, and certainly that was the case today.”
Villarreal, who returned a couple of weeks ago following preseason leg surgery, came on in the 70th, moments after Sivebaek was red-carded for a retalitary foul on rookie left back Bryan Gaul, and provided instant offense, forcing Sounders goalkeeper Bryan Meredith to make a diving save in the 75th, then forcing a tough stop about a minute later, with Kenney Walker's rebound deflecting past the post.
Mendiola was brought on then, and he ate up Seattle from the left flank, setting up a good chance with his first touch. He provided constant danger and was the pivotal party on Garcia's goal, calling for a long diagonal ball from Hector Jimenez, playing a give-and-go with Garcia to the byline, then chipping in a perfect ball for the header.
Garcia, who had entered for Sarvas in the 60th minute, had praise for Villarreal and Mendiola.
“They're extremely quick and extremely unpredictable, so anytime you get to isolate those guys one-on-one with a defender, they can produce good things,” Garcia said. “We're looking to play them the ball, and that's how we got the goal.”
BATTLE IN THE BACK: Sivebaek, a Danish midfielder born in France -- his father, former Danish international John Sivebaek was playing for Saint-Etienne -- had a miserable afternoon. He and Bryan Jordan battled on several occasions during the first half, and he spent a good deal of time on the ground, twice needing time to regain his senses.
He moved from the left to the right side in the second half, and almost immediately was tangling with Gaul, who picked up a yellow card for a foul against him in the 66th minute.
Not long after, Sivebaek leapt straight into Gaul, leaving him crumpled a few feet off the field.
“I didn't think I got him on the tackle,” Gaul said, “but he definitely gave it to me after that. ... He got a little frustrated, came in kind of late, got me.”
It was the turning point: Midfield space opened up, and the Galaxy's penetration quickly improved.
“I actually forgot we were a man up until five minutes left,” forward Adam Cristman said. “We definitely had the advantage in midfield. I think we were doing a good job switching the ball and then getting in behind. ... It helped us be patient and eventually get that goal.”
WORTH NOTING: Sarvas departed after he was cut down by former UCLA star Andy Rose, requiring medical attention. No word on his condition. ... Academy player Oscar Sorto (Los Angeles/Manual Arts HS) made his debut with the top team, coming on in the closing minutes for Jordan. ... UCLA All-American Brian Rowe, an MLS pool goalkeeper, was on the bench for Seattle. He was the backup goalkeeper for the Portland Timbers in Saturday's MLS game against the Galaxy and spent time with Toronto FC last month. ... Goalkeeper coach Ian Feuer, 40, was the standout in Sunday evenings “legends” game between the U.S. and Mexico, making eight big saves in a 2-0 American victory. The consensus: He could play in MLS today. “I told him: 'You're going to get a contract from somebody,” goalscorer Brian McBride said. ... Seattle's reserve team returns to HDC next Monday to play Chivas USA. ... With coaching courses ongoing this week at HDC, plenty of coaches stopped by to watch. Among them: Timo Liekoski, Bora Milutinovic's top assistant at the 1994 World Cup and the Columbus Crew's first head coach, and Paul Ratcliffe, a former UCLA player who guided Stanford to the NCAA Division I women's title in December.
Home Depot Center University Field 1 (Carson)
Galaxy 1, Seattle Sounders 0
LA -- Rafael Garcia (Raul Mendiola) 90
Galaxy: Bill Gaudette; Bryan Jordan (Oscar Sorto, 87), Andrew Boyens, Dan Keat, Bryan Gaul; Hector Jimenez, Kenney Walker, Marcelo Sarvas (Rafael Garcia, 60), Kyle Nakazawa (Raul Mendiola, 76); Pat Noonan (Jose Villarreal, 70), Adam Cristman. Unused sub: Jordan King.
Seattle Sounders: Bryan Meredith; Andrew Duran, Andy Rose, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Marc Burch; Roger Levesque, Cordell Cato, Servando Carrasco, Christian Silvebaek; Mike Seamon, Sammy Ochoa (Alex Caskey, 83). Unused subs: Sean Morris, Armando Ochoa, Jonathan Prieto, Brian Rowe.
Yellow cards: Sarvas 45, Rose 59, Gaul 66, Burch 68, Walker 88.
Referee: Juan Guzman. Att.: c. 200.
Records: Galaxy 1-1-0, 3 points; Seattle 0-2-1, 1 point.