By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
The LA Galaxy have a familiar USL look these days with a number of former Galaxy II players representing the Major League Soccer club. Obviously LA’s framework is working to a tee at all levels. That means the 2015 USL Championship runner-up will have a different look this season in some areas, but the club has done a good job of rotating a number of players in – 40 different players saw minutes with the Galaxy II last year. As Los Dos prepare for their third season, it figures to be another with potential breakout stars as they have established themselves as a top threat in the Western Conference thus far.
Head coach: Curt Onalfo
Stadium: StubHub Center
2015 results: 14-11-3; 5th in Western Conference
2015 postseason: 1-0 win vs. Sacramento in West Quarterfinals; 2-0 win vs. Orange County in West Semifinals; 2-1 win vs. OKC in West Final; 2-1 OT loss vs. Rochester in USL Championship
Goalkeeper: One of the lasting moments from the Galaxy II’s 2015 season was goalkeeper Clement Diop’s clean sheet to open the USL Playoffs and defeat 2014 champion Sacramento Republic FC, jumpstarting a postseason that led to the championship against the Rochester Rhinos. Diop’s game grew as the season wore on, and by mid-December his efforts led to signing with the first team. That means a new starting goalkeeper takes over in 2016, with Saint Louis University alum Nick Shackelford and former Galaxy Academy goalkeeper Eric Lopez vying for minutes. Both players have been part of Los Dos’ roster, but neither has made an appearance thus far.
Defense: French defender Bradley Diallo has been starting on the Galaxy II’s back line since the club’s inception and will continue to be one of the keys in front of the team’s new goalkeeper. Diallo has some familiar help alongside him with Lee Nishanian also returning, having earned some occasional starts over the past two seasons. This group will have to step up without the services of Daniel Steres, who had a memorable MLS debut for the first team with a second-half goal against D.C. United.
Midfield: With Alejandro Covarrubias and Jaime Villarreal set to rejoin the midfield, the Galaxy II have a very respectable duo that gained some valuable experience during last season’s run to the 2016 USL Championship against Rochester. Covarrubias led the team as the only player to appear in all 28 regular-season matches and Villarreal has been following the tracks of his older brother Jose, succeeding at the Academy level and now looking to stand out in his second full USL season for the possibility of reaching the first team. A new player in the mix is 24-year-old Colombian Bryam Rebellon, who has previously spent some time in the Netherlands with RKC Waalwijk and Coventry City.
Forward: The Galaxy II recently signed former Orange County Blues FC forward Denzel Slager, who joins Los Dos following a six-goal, two-assist campaign across all competitions for the Blues last year. He will be a welcome addition following Ariel Lassiter’s signing with the Galaxy’s MLS side. Beyond Slager, the Galaxy II have some familiar pieces starting with Jack McBean. He has been tearing it up this preseason in the scoring column. McBean was second on the club in regular-season goals (6) and assists (5) last year, and it is apparent from this offseason that he is eager to lead this side in a number of ways.
Strengths: The combination of Denzel Slager and Jack McBean should be a fun one to watch at the start of this season. Even with McBean’s scoring prowess throughout the preseason, he has shown in two previous campaigns the capability of making those around him better. Slager could wind up being one of the beneficiaries in 2016.
Weaknesses: The untested realm of this team will be in goal, entering the USL season with a corps that has yet to make a professional appearance. That is not a slight, by any means, against what Nick Shackelford and Eric Lopez have done thus far soccer-wise. Shackelford has worked his way up the ranks and was a heavy presence for the Billikens for all four years, and Lopez has shined at the youth national team and Academy levels. Entering the 2016 USL season, though, the goalkeeping is the club’s biggest unknown.
Key number: 11 – The Galaxy II posted 11 road victories to lead the league last season – eight during the regular season and three during the postseason.
Noteworthy matchups: Four games are on the docket between the Galaxy II and nearby rival Sacramento Republic FC. For as much success as Los Dos had on the road in 2015, their June 4 and Sept. 17 trips to Bonney Field will be epic challenges. There is no question that LA’s Western Conference Quarterfinal win last year is fresh in Republic FC’s memory.
Coach’s view: “We went on a really good run last year and we won all those games on the road, and we were one minute away from hoisting the trophy. But if you look back on the year and what the objectives are … we have players who are incorporating themselves into the first team, which is good. The system’s working.” – Curt Onalfo
Current roster (updated: March 9, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Eric Lopez, Nick Shackelford
Defenders: Bradley Diallo, Lee Nishanian
Midfielders: Alejandro Covarrubias, Ryo Fujii, Elijah Martin, Bryam Rebellon, Jaime Villarreal
Forwards: Adonis Amaya, Travis Bowen, Jack McBean, Denzel Slager