GALAXY: Silva seeks happy homecoming
March, 14, 2012
By Scott French | ESPNLosAngeles.com
AP Photo/Reinhold MatayLuis Silva, left, will be making his return to his native Los Angeles as a member of Toronto FC.
CARSON -- Luis Silva has spent a few evenings inside Home Depot Center -- cheering on the Galaxy, naturally. On Wednesday night the Angeleno will be surrounded by family and friends as he tries to end the Galaxy's dream.
Silva, who scored in his debut for Toronto FC in last week's CONCACAF Champions League first-leg showdown in Canada, hopes to help the Reds to victory in the decisive leg and into a semifinal against the Seattle Sounders or Mexican Primera Division leader Santos Laguna.
“I've been here a few times. As a fan, but here on the pitch, it's my first time,” Silva, a lifelong Galaxy fan, said on the eve of the 7 p.m. clash. “It's a different side now, you can see. Actually training on the field -- I never thought I would be, you know? Maybe in my wildest dreams.”
The rookie midfielder from UC Santa Barbara, the No. 4 overall selection in January's MLS SuperDraft, played a big role in last week's 2-2 tie, nodding home Torsten Frings' long, floating cross to provide a two-goal lead after just 17 minutes.
“Definitely, it was an emotional moment,” Silva said afterward. “It was definitely something that I had been dreaming of, and here it was.”
Silva, 23, has been dreaming of such things for some time. He grew up within south Orange County club giant Pateadores, helped Salesian High School win a CIF Southern California Regional title his senior year, then evolved into a first-team All-American for NCAA powerhouse UCSB. He's one of few rookies stepping right into a starting lineup and figures, at least at this point, to contend with New England's UCLA-bred midfielder Kelyn Rowe and Portland defender Andrew Jean-Baptiste for MLS Rookie of the Year honors.
“It all helps. You have to take your steps,” Silva said. “I first started with my high school, Salesian, and, obviously, we're a good program. We did well to win a few championships, the coaching staff did a good job. Obviously, the club team helps, as well as Santa Barbara. [In college came] the moment I matured and got my head together for what I wanted to do.”
He's got a little size -- he's listed at 5-foot-11, but he's quite sturdy -- a bit of speed and a whole lot of skill.
“Luis Silva is a very good player,” said Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter, who played in two World Cups and three European Championships (winning one) for the Netherlands and starred at Ajax Amsterdam, Lazio and Inter Milan. “He's a player with a lot of talent. He's a player that can play in between the lines and can score goals. He's making quite the difference.”
If he can do so again Wednesday night -- if Toronto can pull off the unexpected -- he'll have a pretty good group to celebrate with.
“All my family's coming, all that are in Los Angeles. There's going to be a lot,” he said. “There's going to be a few friends, too. I can't tell you a number, but there's going to be a few.”