Los Angeles Soccer: Mexico under-20 national team
Rarely, if ever, has there been a day quite so golden for U.S. Soccer -- involving multiple teams -- as was Wednesday.
- The full men's national team beat Italy for the first time -- and in Italy, in Genoa -- as Clint Dempsey finished from Jozy Altidore's finish up top. Also splendid: midfielder Michael Bradley and German-born left back Fabian Johnson.
- The U.S. women's national team won its Algarve Cup opener in Portugal, dominating Denmark, 5-0, as Diamond Bar's Alex Morgan scored two more goals -- her 17th and 18th in 34 international games -- and assisted another by Hermosa Beach's Abby Wambach. UCLA products Sydney Leroux (goal) and Lauren Cheney (assist) also contributed in the scoring.
- The U.S. under-23 national team, preparing for the Olympic qualifiers in March, outclassed Mexico's U-23s, 2-0, in Frisco, Texas, on goals two minutes apart by Juan Agudelo and Freddy Adu.
One more international event to report, from Tuesday night. UCLA looked good in holding Mexico's under-20 national team to a scoreless draw at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.
The Blues absorbed nearly everything thrown at them by an El Tri side that featured up-and-comers from several of Mexico's biggest clubs -- Guadalajara, America, Tigres, Monterrey and Santos Laguna among them -- and might have achieved a better result if not for red cards three minutes apart to Mexican trialist Mike Lopez and Israel Sesay.
Lopez's 70th-minute red card, after a hip-check on Monterrey's Oscar Garcia, might have been warranted. Sesay, a former Galaxy player who inadvertently kicked Santos' Jesus Escoboza, could have gotten off with a yellow card, perhaps. No matter.
“I'm most proud of the way they fought and battled for each other, even two men down. They never quit,” Naimo said following the match, which drew 2,864 to Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium. “You can really look at the heart and discipline this team will have this year, and we're still missing a bunch of guys. We haven't started preseason yet. I'm pleased.
“To play a fit group of soccer players like that, that pressed us for the whole game -- they're active, they're busy, they're technical. That's a great soccer team. The way that game went, I hate losing as much as anybody, but I felt our guys played with a winner's mentality tonight. We need to get better in our attack, but we'll figure it out.”
The Blues have a mix of signed players -- the latest, not yet announced: former UC Irvine star (and New York Red Bulls midfielder) Irving Garcia, who played up front -- and those looking for jobs, and quite a few won't be in camp until preparations for the club's second season in America's third-division league begin, officially, on Thursday.
Naimo, whose club has been training all winter, likes the foundation, which ought to serve the Blues well after last season unraveled amid indiscipline and problems with chemistry.
“I saw some things tonight,” he noted, “that said, 'OK, we've got this figured out, that figured out. We've just got to figure this out and then figure that out.' ”
The Blues will face Mexico's under-20 national team on Feb. 25 and Mexican second-tier club Irapuato on March 10, both of them 7 p.m. starts at Cal State Fullerton's Titan Stadium.
El Tri's U-20s include Cruz Azul's Martin Galvan, who has attracted interest in Europe after making his first-team debut 40 days shy of his 15th birthday, Monterrey forwards Jesus Manuel Corona and Luis Madrigal, and UANL Tigres defender Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Riverside/Saddleback HS).
The U-20s also will face UCLA on Feb. 28 at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys.
Irapuato features goalkeeper Sergio Arias, who was No. 3 on Chivas USA's depth chart last year.
Tickets for each game are $20 ($10 for 12-under) and available from the Blues at 714-738-8011 or on the team's Facebook page.