The Galaxy returns to Major League Soccer action this weekend riding a little wave of success.
Not in the games that count -- they've got eight games in all, seven of them in league, without a victory -- but Tuesday's 3-1 triumph in Vancouver takes L.A. out of the league's minibreak with successive MLS Reserve League victories.
Jose Villarreal netted two goals in his first start of the year and Jack McBean came off the bench to nod home a late winner as the Galaxy (3-1-1) climbed atop the Western Division standings at the University of British Columbia.
Things aren't going so well in MLS proper: L.A. is last in the West and 17th of 19 clubs overall with a 3-8-2 mark heading into Sunday afternoon's clash with Portland at Home Depot Center. Do Reserve League victories translate to the real deal? Subtly but surely.
“It's that feeling,” goalkeeper Josh Saunders, who went the full 90 after retuning from a month in MLS's Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program for a 2-1 win 10 days ago at Portland, noted last week. “The guys that were in the locker room after the [reserve games] remember that feeling of winning. That's contagious. Those guys know what it's like to win again, and, hopefully, we can push that into our first team.”
Trialist Andy Iro, the former UC Santa Barbara All-American who played for Columbus and Toronto FC, went 90 minutes in central defense. Rookie Rafael Garcia, a central midfielder, got a look at right back. And assistant coach Curt Onalfo, who guides the reserve team, gave Galaxy Academy players Oscar Sorto and Mario Rodriguez spots in the starting XI.
Villarreal, a Home Grown Player from Inglewood, scored his first two goals since signing in December, finishing a Michael Stephens feed two minutes into the second half and adding an insurance goal in second-half stoppage from a long clearance by Saunders.
Bryce Alderson pulled the Whitecaps (3-2-1) even from a goalmouth scramble following a 68th-minute corner kick, but McBean headed home a Kyle Nakazawa free kick in the 86th to give L.A. the points.
WORTH NOTING: Both Galaxy teams in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy -- U-18 and U-16 -- won SoCal Division titles. L.A. won the USSDA U-16 national championship last year, and its U-18 team features eight players from South Bay Force who last year were part of the Mission Viejo Pateadores' USSDA U-18 national champions. That group includes Villarreal. ... Sorto (Los Angeles/Manual Arts HS) and Rodriguez (North Hollywood/Poly HS) were making their second Reserve League appearances this season. Academy midfielder Sebastian Velasquez (Los Angeles/Bernstein HS) came off the bench for the second straight game. Nathan Smith was on the bench for the second time, and Drew Murphy (Torrance/West Torrance HS), who played in last year's Reserve League game at Vancouver, also was on the bench.
MLS RESERVE LEAGUE
University of British Columbia (Vancouver, British Columbia)
Vancouver Whitecaps 1, Galaxy 3
LA -- Jose Villarreal (Michael Stephens) 47
V -- Bryce Alderson 68
LA -- Jack McBean (Kyle Nakazawa) 86
LA -- Jose Villarreal 91+
Vancouver Whitecaps: Brad Knighton; Russell Teilbert, Jordan Harvey (Ben Fisk, 82), Carlyle Mitchell, Greg Klazura; Etienne Barbara (Bryce Alderson, 58), Matt Watson (Daniel Stanese, 78), Floyd Franks (Antonin Peterlin, 46); Eric Hassli (Caleb Clarke, 73), Camilo, Michael Nanchoff. Unused subs: Marco Carducci.
Galaxy: Josh Saunders; Rafael Garcia, Andy Iro, Tommy Meyer, Oscar Sorto; Michael Stephens, Kyle Nakazawa, Kenney Walker, Bryan Jordan (Sebastian Velasquez, 73); Jose Villarreal, Mario Rodriguez (Jack McBean, 73). Unused subs: Drew Murphy, Brian Perk, Nathan Smith.
Yellow card: Nanchoff 13.
Referee: Paul Ward. Att.: NA.
1. Galaxy 3-1-1 (9-7 GF-GA) 10 points
2. Vancouver 3-2-1 (8-10) 10
3. Chivas USA 2-1-1 (8-5) 7
4. Portland 2-3-0 (7-5) 6
5. San Jose 1-2-2 (5-7) 5
6. Seattle 1-3-1 (6-9) 4