Galaxy sign MF Jose Villarreal as third Home Grown

With midfielder Juninho not returning for 2012 and the possible departure of David Beckham still in the air, the LA Galaxy continued to add depth to their midfield, but this time, they did so by reaching into their academy.

On Thursday, the club announced the signing of 18-year-old US youth midfielder Jose Villarreal as a Home Grown player.

“Jose is a player that we have known and watched for a long time and it’s been great to have him in our academy this past year,” Galaxy Academy senior director Chris Klein said in a statement. “He has a tremendous amount of promise and potential and we’re excited that he’ll be able to continue his development with the first team.”

Villarreal is in his first season with the Galaxy Academy and has scored three times in six games. He joined LA from local club team Pateadores, whom he helped win the US Soccer Development Academy U-18 championship in July. He scored 20 goals in 31 games during his time there.

Where international duty is concerned, Villarreal is fresh off a US U-23 camp held in Germany in November and played for the U-18s in July at the Milk Cup in Northern Ireland, dishing out one assist in three matches played in the tournament.

The midfielder becomes just the third Home Grown signing for the Galaxy. In 2008, forward Tristan Bowen became the first player ever to be signed directly from the academy, and in January, Jack McBean became the youngest player ever to play in a game and score for LA.

“It’s been my dream ever since I was little to be a professional soccer player," Villarreal said, "so to be able to do that and stay close to home so that I can play in front of my family and friends is a dream come true."

Villarreal could make his pro debut as early as March 7, when the Galaxy visit Toronto FC for the first of their two-leg CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup.