Los Angeles Soccer: J.T. Murray
TORONTO -- Rafael Garcia, whose San Fernando Valley exploits revealed him as one of Southern California's most promising young players, will get his shot at the big time.
The central midfielder from Canoga Park and Cal State Northridge survived preseason with the Galaxy, winning one of the final three roster spots. The Galaxy has not yet announced the deals but are expected to later Tuesday or Wednesday.
Defender Bryan Gaul and midfielder Kenney Walker also signed with the club, giving L.A. 31 players, although only 30 -- the MLS cap -- will count against the roster maximum until Omar Gonzalez, expected to be out until at least September because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament, comes off the disabled list. They'll then have to make a roster move.
Garcia, 23, part of the great Canoga Park High School team that won a mythical national championship in 2007, starred at Northridge, participated in Major League Soccer's pre-draft combine in Florida and was selected by the Galaxy in the second round of January's supplemental draft. He impressed in just three preseason match appearances, providing one of the highlights of L.A.'s preparations with a dynamic run to set up a Dan Keat goal in a 3-2 victory Feb. 16 against Chivas USA.
“I'm at a loss for words,” Garcia said following the Galaxy's training session Tuesday afternoon at Rogers Centre, where they'll face Toronto FC in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg Wednesday night. “I'm really excited to be on the team, and to make it official is just a great feeling.
“I tried my hardest [during preseason]. I worked very hard. I like to think my hard work paid off. I looked at the rest of the midfielders, saw what they were doing, and I learned a lot. I think that was to my benefit, and thank God it all worked out for me.”
Gaul, 22, a 6-foot-5 forward-turned-center back from Bradley University, also was selected in the supplemental draft. He made eight preseason appearances, with three full 90s, primarily partnering Andrew Boyens as a second-choice tandem in the middle.
Walker, 23, a central midfielder from the University of Louisville, was taken in the second round of the SuperDraft after an impressive performance at the combine. He played in seven preseason matches.
Supplemental draft pick Justin Davies, an outside back from San Diego State, and trialist J.T. Murray, an outside back from Louisville who was drafted last year by Sporting Kansas City but did not make the Wizards' roster, were released from camp.
Center back Tommy Meyer, the Galaxy's first-round SuperDraft selection, signed an MLS contract before the draft.
CARSON -- Landon Donovan is starting to feel like himself again. Robbie Keane is “sharp” and “fit.” Both finally are training with the Galaxy, just days before the season begins, and that's a huge step forward for the Major League Soccer's reigning champions.
Both have returned from short-term loan spells in England, but with one significant difference. Keane arrived last week after an exceptional stint with Aston Villa -- he was, from the moment he arrived, the Premier League club's most significant player.
Donovan, coming off a superb seven weeks at Everton, arrived home with the flu and spent the next week in bed.
He's finally coming around but needs to regain the fitness and form he had while overseas.
“It's been a really frustrating 2½ weeks, missing the last game [of the loan] at Everton, missing the trip [for last week's U.S. game] to Italy and just trying to get healthy,” he said after L.A.'s training session Sunday morning at Home Depot Center. “Sometimes the flu or sickness doesn't care what's going on, it's just going to do what it's going to do.”
Donovan said he felt he turned a corner on Wednesday, as he watched the Americans' victory over the Italians. He ran for the first time Thursday in Arizona, where the team ended its preseason preparations, and trained for the first time, for real, Saturday at HDC.
“Honestly, probably not till today did I feel closse to getting back to myself,” he said. “I haven't been able to breathe very well with all this in my lungs. It's a nice feeling.”
Goalkeeper Bill Gaudette, who played in 17 Major League Soccer games for Columbus half a decade ago, and second-year defender J.T. Murray have been invited to Home Depot Center for trials with the MLS Cup champions.
Sixteen returning players are slated to attend the opening sessions -- all but on-loan stars Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane, injured defenders Omar Gonzalez and Sean Alvarado and three players on international duty: A.J. DeLaGarza, Michael Stephens and Brian Perk -- along with newcomers Marcelo Sarvas, Andrew Boyens, Pat Noonan, Nick Noble, Jose Villarreal and seven draft picks.
David Beckham, whose new two-year contract was announced Wednesday, will be involved from the start of camp for the first time since he joined the club in July 2007.
Gaudette, 30, has been one of the best lower-division goalkeepers in U.S.-based leagues since departing Columbus in 2007 following his third season with the club. He spent three years with the Puerto Rico Islanders -- playing to the second-tier team when it beat the Galaxy in the preliminary round of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League -- and last season played for the Montreal Impact, which is making the jump this year from the second-division North American Soccer League to MLS.
Murray, 23, was a second-round SuperDraft selection last year by Sporting Kansas City, but he didn't make the roster and played with Sevilla FC Puerto Rico until the club was booted from the third-division USL Pro. He starred at the University of Louisville, helping the Cardinals reach the NCAA title game in 2010.
Eight of the Galaxy's nine preseason games will be against MLS clubs, including a Feb. 16 SuperClasico against Chivas USA. The Galaxy has the game location undetermined, but the Goats have the game at HDC on its schedule.