CARSON, CA - AUGUST 19: Newly acquired Los Angeles Galaxy forward Robbie Keane greets kids from Los Angeles Galaxy Youth Academy after training at The Home Depot Center on August 19, 2011 in Carson, California. Keane, who is the captain of Ireland's national team, will make his MLS debut against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at The Home Depot Center (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
tToday, the LA Galaxy kicked off the reserve league season with a 4-2 loss to Chivas USA. The result doesn't matter, it's more about how the team looked. The first half was Chivas style defensive, and when the scoring opened up the Galaxy appeared to hit a wall. However, what might be most significant about this match was that Raul Mendiola came in and played in the final minutes of the game.
If you haven't heard of Mendiola, he's currently on the Galaxy U-18 squad. Out on the pitch he was about a foot shorter than everyone, and wore an oversized #40 jersey. If you didn't know any better, you never would have known that the Galaxy were using a player regarded as the best youth soccer player in America.
Born in Mexico but currently living in Southern California, Mendiola has trained with Manchester City and Sevilla recently. Both clubs were impressed. He's a two time Academy Player of the Year.
He was brought in by Academy Director Chris Klein:
"[He's] someone who's incredibly dynamic...he's just a very good soccer player"
Despite training at top overseas clubs, Klein assures that talking to him the kid wants to stay here. Not that the Galaxy are going to sign him tomorrow. The timeline is up to Mendiola and to Bruce Arena.
Like Jose Villarreal and Jack McBean, he's a player the Galaxy can sign to a Home Grown contract not counting against the Salary Budget. Also like those players, he's someone MLS needs to be investing in.
The Academy vs. Draft debate is for another time, but clubs simply can't develop talent like this in their backyard and let some other club reap the reward. MLS isn't a strong enough league to toss away talent like that.