GALAXY: Azkals excited to meet idols
The Galaxy's tour of Asia and Australia is producing some thrills -- and disappointments. And that's just within the Philippines' national team.
L.A. landed in Manila on Thursday for the second leg of their postseason trek, triggering tales from the Filipino squad's stars of their youths following David Beckham. And the Galaxy.
Philippine captain Aly Borromeo, a Bay Area-born defender who is out because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, said in a news conference Thursday that it was “heartbreaking not to be out on the pitch with my team.”
To miss out on the chance to share a field with Beckham? Not quite.
“I grew up,” he said, “watching the Galaxy in college in the U.S.”
Borromeo will have to be content watching Saturday's friendly at Rizal Memorial Stadium, which kicks off at 3:30 a.m. PST and will be shown on Fox Soccer Channel.
Phil Younghusband, an English-born, Chelsea-bred forward, is relishing his opportunity to play against Beckham.
“David Beckham is one of the reasons why I wanted to be a professional player. He’s the player who, since I was 7, I wanted to emulate,” Younghusband, now 24, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier this week. He said he sent Beckham a fan letter when he was 9 but that he was “sure it never got to him. But I was able to meet him when I was 10, when Chelsea played Manchester United, [when] I was a [Chelsea] ball boy.”
The Galaxy's visit is getting heavy attention in Manila and around the country, which has embraced the sport following the Philippines' unprecedented run to the ASEAN Championship final four last year. It's rare that top global sides make their way to the country -- a Brazilian club, in the late '70s, was the last, one outlet reported -- and if the Galaxy aren't a top global side, they've got a few players who can and have played at that level.
The experience, all concerned agree, will help soccer's standing in the Philippines.
“This is an experience [the national team] can constantly draw inspiration from, a memory they can return to again and again as we gear up for football’s renaissance in the country,” Dan Palami, team manager of the Azkals, as the national team is called, said at Thursday's news conference. “[Beckham’s] visit validates our interest in the sport and gives us a chance to share our love of the game with others. This international recognition of football’s resurgence in our country connects us further with the wider global community of football fans and enthusiasts.”
The Galaxy said all the right things at the news conference, that their game Wednesday against Indonesia's national team, a 1-0 victory, was a “very difficult game” (Beckham), that they “know there are talented players here” (Beckham) and that they “expect a difficult match” from the Philippines, “probably more difficult than the other night” (coach Bruce Arena).
Indonesia's speed and skill impressed against the Galaxy, who dictated terms almost the whole way and prevailed on Robbie Keane's 14th-minute goal.
Younghusband said the occasion won't put him and his teammates off their game.
“I don’t think anybody of us will be awed,” he said at the news conference. “It’s important to be professionals before and during the game. We’ll play the same as we usually play, no matter who the opposition is. I think it’s important we concentrate on our own game. Obviously, L.A. Galaxy have players of a high standard, so we have to play more defensively when you’re playing against such strong attacking players.”
WORTH NOTING: Arena praised Indonesian midfielder Andik Vermansyah and forward Greg Nwokolo following the Galaxy's win in Jakarta and said that “maybe they could be considered to follow a trial” with the Galaxy. ... Philippines coach Michael Weiss called in Toronto FC defender Demitrius Omphroy, who is from the Bay Area, and midfielder Matthew Uy, who is from New York. Both have played in the U.S. youth national teams program. ... Ticket prices is Manila were slashed by 35 percent Monday -- the cheapest seat had been $65 -- and the California-based promoter said 80 percent of the 12,873-capacity stadium would be filled. ... The Galaxy will stage a clinic for local youth Friday, followed by a ticketed training session. ... No official attendance was released for Wednesday's game, but media estimated the crowd at more than 30,000. ... Another name linked to the Galaxy, via Spanish press: Kepa Blanco, 27, known merely as Kepa, who plays for Spanish second-division side Recreativo Huelva. The Spanish forward previously played for Sevilla and Getafe and briefly on loan at West Ham United.