By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
On or off the field, the LA Galaxy II’s Jaime Villarreal is about finding ways to express himself.
Whether in his role as an attacking midfielder for Curt Onalfo’s side, or creating art and drawing away from the playing field, the first player to sign with Los Dos directly from the Galaxy’s Academy in 2014 enjoys the balance the two pursuits provide.
“I just like the way I can express myself in a different way,” Villarreal said recently. “I’m not a big person for speaking what I’m thinking, so I like to express it by drawing. It calms me down. When I draw and listen to music it gets me into a cool vibe.”
The relaxed feel Villarreal has away from the field is the opposite of how the 20-year-old approaches the game. Given the opportunity of increased minutes and starts in his first full season with Los Dos a season ago, Villarreal proved his worth to the side. He scored his first professional goal in the side’s midseason 4-0 victory on the road against Sacramento, and also upped his defensive work-rate as the Galaxy II became a formidable side both at home and on the road.
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Despite the youth of the squad, which has seen numerous players follow Villarreal in signing from the Galaxy’s Academy over the past 18 months, the level of competition in the Los Angeles area as players chase their professional dreams has been a boon for the Galaxy II. Villarreal credits the competition level he faced coming up through the city’s youth ranks with providing the edge many of Los Dos’ young players bring to the field.
“I think the rest of those players [in the region], their talent made you step up your game in every game you played,” Villarreal said. “If you didn’t bring your ‘A’ game, you would suffer the next game. I think just the talent of the other players made me better, and also the other players I know here, it made them better as well.”
The success the Galaxy II have had in their first two seasons in the USL is testament to the experiences the players have gone through to reach this level, and also the manner in which Onalfo has led his young charges. The former MLS Head Coach’s experience, knowing what buttons to push and when to push his players forward, has been an invaluable resource to Villarreal.
“His way of interacting with players, how he approaches the game and how he talks to you, it gives you that motivation every day to come out and compete every day in practice,” Villarreal said. “He’s done a really good job with all of the young guys, and he’s a big reason why there are players coming up to the first team.”
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Four players became the first to make the transition to the Galaxy’s MLS squad in the past 12 months, with mid-season signing Dave Romney being joined by Daniel Steres, Clement Diop and Ariel Lassiter this offseason. While all of those players could still play a role for the Galaxy II this season, Villarreal and others like Adonis Amaya may see an increase in minutes for the side this season as the Galaxy II look to go one better than their defeat in last season’s USL Championship.
With players like Jack McBean, Alejandro Covarubbias and MLS Homegrown standouts like Raul Mendiola and Bradford Jamieson IV also likely to be available for the squad, Villarreal is expecting another successful season. After the disappointment of having the USL Championship grabbed away in the dying seconds in Rochester last fall, the side has major motivation moving into the new season.“It was a tough loss, losing in the last minute, but I think it made the team stronger coming into the season knowing that if we put our minds to it we could get to the final,” Villarreal said. “I’m not glad we lost the final, but it gave us motivation with that want to win the championship.”