After going about a third of the way through the USL season, the two Southern California teams, Orange County Blues and LA Galaxy II, finally square off, beginning on Saturday at Anteater Stadium in Irvine. In order to get a sense of how things are going in the MLS-owned team's second season, we welcome Sean Steffen of SB Nation blog LAG Confidential to discuss the visitors. Thanks to Sean for taking the time to answer my questions!
The Goat Parade asks LAG Confidential:
1. It's year two of the Galaxy's USL team. Have you noticed any adjustments in how the team is run, or how the players are used this year?
This year the team has improved upon their pipeline connection with the academy. You have guys like Ryo Fujii and Adonis Amaya who were given pro contracts and a stipend to attend Cal State Dominguez Hills, which is a blueprint for how this team wants to operate in conjunction with the Academy going forward. At the same time, the team has continued to find intriguing young talent that isn't coming through the academy. Ariel Lassiter is a wonderful example of such a player, and given the Galaxy's schedule, I wouldn't be surprised if he gets some first team minutes this year.
2. Obviously the aim of a USL team is somewhat different for the MLS-owned teams than for the independent clubs. But there does seem to be some difference in the approach among the MLS-owned sides. Is the Galaxy II aiming to win titles while supporting the first team, or is development of players the primary aim for them?
Obviously no organization will come out and admit that winning isn't the primary goal, but I think it's more than fair to say this is indeed the case with Los Dos. At the very least, you could say that their aspirations of winning are hindered by the greater goal of developing players for the full team. When he plays for them, Bradford Jamieson IV is probably LA II's best player, but as a result, he hardly plays for them, spending a good deal of time on the first team bench and, this season, getting decent minutes with the first team.
By that same token, Galaxy II fields one of the youngest sides in USL PRO, which probably isn't the best for winning, but is certainly best for developing.
3. Raul Mendiola seems to be getting some attention of late, especially for his league-leading assists tally. Do you think he'll be getting some time in MLS pretty soon, or does he need more time to season?
The topic of Raul Mendiola and the first team is an interesting one and a bit of a head scratcher. At the beginning of last year he was regularly making the first team bench. This culminated in him getting subbed into an away match in Houston where the Galaxy were playing poorly and needed a spark. Within minutes of entering, he dribbled past his man, cut inside, and fired a shot that was inches away from the scoring. Immediately following this game, however, he rather strangely stopped making the bench entirely and Bradford Jamieson IV took his place. What exactly happened to cause his benching (or I guess, benching from the bench) is anyone's guess and without knowing said reasoning, it's hard to speculate about his first team future. If we're going on talent and form alone, I think he and Lassiter are definitely players that deserve a first team look at some point soon.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!