The Galaxy's youngest player has arrived in Southern California after leading the U.S. under-17 team to the regional championship, and he'll train with the first team for the first time Thursday.
He accomplished more pressing business first, joining his former teammates at Corona del Mar High School for a bus trek to its CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinal game Tuesday afternoon at Paramount High and cheering on the Sea Kings in a 2-1 defeat.
Afterward, 16-year-old forward Jack McBean said he was excited to be joining the Galaxy and hoped he could reward their faith in him.
“I know I'm not going to go in there and start right away, because they have Juan Pablo [Angel] and Landon [Donovan],” said McBean, who signed as a “Home Grown Player” in January but has been with the U.S. U-17s as they prepared for and played in the CONCACAF championship.
“I want to improve my game the best I can, take all the experience I can as a young player, have an open mind to things, try to get better every day and see where that takes me.”
McBean's life has been a whirlwind the past few months. He left Corona del Mar to join the U.S. under-17 residency in Bradenton, Fla., then signed with the Galaxy, then played a pivotal role -- assisting two goals and setting up a third -- in the Americans' 3-0 overtime triumph over Canada in Sunday's final in Jamaica.
He's not expected to play much, if any, first-team soccer for the Galaxy this season, instead learning in practice and in reserve games, playing for the club's youth Academy team and featuring for the U.S. U-17s, who are headed to the June 18-July 10 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico.
McBean said that Donovan went to dinner with his parents, Scotty and Lisa, and “said he'd sort of be like my mentor. I'm excited about that.”
Donovan talked a little about the meeting last week, saying he “wanted to make it clear to [the McBeans] that they're going to have a lot of mentors here for him, a lot of people that he can come to -- something I sort of wish I had at that age [at Bayer Leverkusen]. I can empathize with him and what he's going through. … I want to make sure he's guided in the right way.”
Corona del Mar battled well in the showdown between CIF Southern Section and Southern California Regional champions, but they lacked a presence up front, which McBean, just a sophomore, certainly would have provided. McBean played a key role on the Sea Kings' title-winning teams last year.
“He flew in in from Jamaica last night, and today he's back on the bus with his teammates,” marveled CdM coach George Larsen. “That tells you the kind of kid he is. He just won a gold medal, was the star in that game, and his first thing back, he's on the bus with his teammates. …
“I think they would've love him on the field today. We could've used him.”
McBean will be on the field Thursday, surrounded by mentors, the next step along a path he calls “pretty unreal.”
“I'm just thankful to the Galaxy for taking a chance on me,” he said. “I'm excited to get out there and not prove them wrong.”
A REAL GAME: Every preseason scrimmage is a real game, sure, but the Galaxy get their first real real game -- with paying fans, in a real stadium -- Wednesday night against Club Tijuana at the University of San Diego.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, who has fielded a starting lineup for most of a game just twice in preseason, in victories last month over Vancouver in Tempe, Ariz., said he planned to use a first-team lineup -- and for most if not all of the game -- in the 7 p.m. clash at Torero Stadium.
“I think the game [against Tijuana] is important for us to get a group together for 90 minutes in a gated game that puts them under a little bit of pressure,” Arena said.
What constitutes a first-choice lineup at this point? Some of it is obvious: Angel up front, David Beckham on one flank, Donovan on the other (or up front), Juninho and Chris Birchall in central midfield, Omar Gonzalez at center back and Donovan Ricketts in the nets.
With Gregg Berhalter slowed by a minor knee injury, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza or Leonardo could partner Gonzalez, with Franklin, DeLaGarza or Frankie Hejduk at right back and Hejduk, DeLaGarza or Todd Dunivant at left back.
Club Tijuana is 2-1-5, for seventh place, in the second-tier Liga de Ascenso's Clausura (spring) standings after winning the Apertura (fall) championship. The Xoloitzcuintles will in May be in a playoff for promotion to the Primera Division, Mexico's top league.
ADDED SCRIMMAGE: The Galaxy will be back on the field Friday morning in a closed-door scrimmage against Canada's under-23 national team, which beat Chivas USA, 2-0, on Tuesday. The Canadians trained last week in Oxnard and are working out at Home Depot Center this week.