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Thursday, February 16, 2012
GALAXY: Garcia makes his mark

By Scott French

Rafael Garcia.
Cal State Northridge's Rafael Garcia, right, is battling for a midfield job with the Galaxy.

CARSON -- The odds Rafael Garcia makes the Galaxy's roster aren't necessarily great, not with the depth and talent already residing in midfield, but more of what he showed in a preseason victory Thursday over Chivas USA might push things in his favor.

The rookie from Canoga Park and Cal State Northridge made one fabulous run, creating a third first-half goal as L.A. romped to a big lead and then held on for a 3-2 triumph on its training field just southwest of Home Depot Center's main stadium.

The Galaxy played a reserve lineup against a Chivas side featuring eight to 10 likely first-teamers and dominated the first half, rolling up a 3-0 advantage as Adam Cristman and Jack McBean applied heavy pressure to the Goats' backline. There were mistakes galore -- and by some of Chivas' steadiest players, such as Dan Kennedy and Heath Pearce -- and L.A. took advantage.

Cristman did the bulk of the work, setting up Pat Noonan for the opener and turning a backpass miscue by Goats goalkeeper Kennedy into a 2-0 advantage. Garcia, getting a full, strong 90 minutes in just his second preseason appearance, made his move about 10 minutes later.

He took a pass and sprinted into the box, eluding Pearce to get to the byline. He spun around when John Alexander Valencia arrived, holding the ball for Dan Keat to get into a channel, then feeding his simple finish.

Garcia, 23, who captained that incredible 2006-07 Canoga Park High School team that went 24-0-1 and won the mythical state championship, has steadily grown since Galaxy camp began 3½ weeks ago.

“He had a good performance today,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He's been getting better. He's started to pick it up over the last couple of weeks, so he's going to push hard to make our roster.”

Right now L.A. has 34 players. It needs to be down to 30 by March 1, and Omar Gonzalez will be on the disabled list, which opens a slot. Barring trades, one of the remaining cuts will be of a goalkeeper -- Nick Noble, who has been signed, and Bill Gaudette are fighting for a spot. Garcia, a supplemental draft choice, and second-round SuperDraft pick Kenney Walker are trying to win jobs in a midfield that might not have available space.

Garcia's plan is simple.

“Well, just work every day,” he said. “I think for the most part I've been working and trying to improve day in and day out. That's the goal for a lot of the young guys like myself, to make the roster. ... It's not going to be easy. We're definitely up for the challenge.”

Garcia is skilled two-way central midfielder, capable of organizing and creating. He teamed effectively Tuesday with second-year midfielder Keat, a New Zealander who could be L.A.'s breakout player this season.

“I was fortunate enough to gt the start today,” Garcia said. “Whenever I get the opportunity, I look to make the best of it.”

He said he needed a little time at the start of camp to adjust to the advanced pace of the pro game, but “it's a lot easier when you have players like David [Beckham] around and Edson Buddle and guys who will take you under their wing and show you how it's done.”

Garcia, a lifelong Galaxy fan -- he attended games with his family at the Rose Bowl as a child -- is excited just for a chance to fight for a job with the club he supports and among players he admires.

“Never in a million years would I think I'd be in this position,” he said. “I'm thankful to the Galaxy for giving me the opportunity.”

BECKHAM'S TAKE: The Galaxy has won two of five preseason games, one of four against MLS clubs, and Beckham, who did not play Tuesday, says progress is being made.

“I think we're getting there,” he said. “I think the games have been disappointing for us, but that's a part of preseason. It was the same last year. We didn't do well in the preseason games last year [just one win in the first four games en route to a 6-1-3 record]. I think at the end of the day, it's about our fitness, getting our levels up, and the important part is the start of the season.”

DONOVAN'S DEAL: Landon Donovan's loan deal at Everton was cut short when the Feb. 25 game against Liverpool was postponed because the Toffees' archrival plays in the League Cup final the following day.

Donovan, who was chosen Everton's Player of the Month for January (as during the 2010 loan spell, too) returns to Southern California following Saturday's F.A. Cup fifth-rounder against Blackpool, has a medical exam scheduled for Monday and will join his teammates in Tucson, Ariz., after a few days in L.A. He is unlikely to play in L.A.'s Desert Diamond Classic opener Wednesday against New England.

WORTH NOTING: Chivas was the better team after midfielders Miller Bolaños and Blair Gavin, left back Jorge Villafaña, left winger Ryan Smith and forward Cesar Romero came on. Michael Lahoud tallied in the 53rd minute and Romero finished from Villafaña witth 13 minutes to go. ... Keat, Noonan, and rookie defenders Justin Davies and Bryan Gaul also went the full 90. Most of those who played extended minutes in Tuesday's loss to Montreal trained on University Field 2 during the match. ... Gaudette departed near the end of the first half after tweaking something in his leg. Arena said it wasn't serious. ... Marine One, carrying President Obama, and its accompanying helicopters flew overhead during the first half, en route from Corona del Mar to West L.A. At halftime, Air Force F-16s, corraling a private jet that entered the president's airspace, flew nearby. Home Depot Center University Field 1 (Carson)
Galaxy 3, Chivas USA 2

LA -- Pat Noonan (Adam Cristman) 21
LA -- Adam Cristman 31
LA -- Dan Keat (Rafael Garcia) 40
C -- Michael Lahoud 53
C -- Cesar Romero (Jorge Villafaña) 77

Galaxy: Bill Gaudette (Nick Noble, 39); Justin Davies, Andrew Boyens (Tommy Meyer, 77), Bryan Gaul, J.T. Murray (Todd Dunivant, 84); Hector Jimenez (Michael Stephens, 68), Dan Keat, Rafael Garcia, Pat Noonan; Jack McBean (Kyle Nakazawa, 70), Adam Cristman.

Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy (Tim Melia, 65); James Riley, John Alexander Valencia (David Junior Lopes, 72), Heath Pearce, Ante Jazic (Jorge Villafaña, 58); Ben Zemanski (Blair Gavin, 72), Alejandro Moreno (Miller Bolaños, 46); Michael Lahoud, Nick LaBrocca (Peter Vagenas, 72), Laurent Courtois (Ryan Smith, 58); Juan Pablo Angel (Cesar Romero, 46).

Yellow cards: LaBrocca 61, Nakazawa 73.

Referee: Chris Penso. Att.: c. 50. Record: 2-3-0; vs. MLS: 1-3-0
Feb. 3 vs. L.A. Blues (USL Pro): W, 7-2
(Sarvas pen. 12, Dunivant 29, Cristman 36, 45, Cardozo 42, McBean 63, Nakazawa pen. 85)
Feb. 7 vs. Portland: L ,1-4 (Keat 80)
Feb. 10 vs. Houston: L, 0-1
Feb. 14 vs. Montreal: L, 0-3
Feb. 16 vs. Chivas USA: W, 3-2
(Noonan 21, Cristman 31, Keat 40)

Remaining games
Feb. 22 vs. New England at Tucson, Ariz.
Feb. 25 vs. Real Salt Lake at Tucson, Ariz.
Feb. 29 vs. New York at Tucson, Ariz.
March 3 Desert Diamond Cup final/third-place game at Tucson, Ariz.