Jose Villarreal's Major League Soccer debut last weekend in Portland wasn't much, just a few minutes of stoppage time with not even a touch on the ball.
The Galaxy's 18-year-old midfielder made sure his second appearance was something to remember.
Villarreal played the hero in LA's 2-2 draw Wednesday night at Vancouver, coming off the bench to score a splendid 87th-minute goal that completed a late two-goal comeback and gave the Galaxy seven points from a three-game swing through Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.
Juninho lightly volleyed a David Beckham chip up the right wing to Villarreal at the top of the box, and the youngster's composure on the play – the way he halted as Gershon Koffie raced past, how he shifted the ball underneath to his favored left foot, creating space under pressure – was as impressive as the finish: an arcing ball to the upper V.
GOAL: Villarreal equalizes with stunner
“Great goal,” David Beckham told media in Vancouver afterward. “He's been doing it week in and week out in training. He works hard, he's a young kid, he likes to learn, and he listens to the older players.”
He listens to his coach, too.
“Bruce Arena just told me to go out there and, 'Do what you do, just score,'” Villarreal said in his postgame interview on Galaxy broadcast partner KDOC's coverage of the match. “I've been doing it in practice, and things have been going well for me. I'm happy about that.”
Villarreal, who is from Inglewood, Calif., just a few miles northwest of Home Depot Center, has been a staple for the Galaxy's Reserve League team. He's played in all five matches this season and scored twice in his first start, a 3-1 win June 12 over Vancouver.
His first MLS appearance, as a substitute for Robbie Keane at the end of the victory in Portland, was 90 seconds or so of waiting around for the final whistle. This time there was purpose to his entrance.
“Jose we put in because we know he's a guy who can get a goal,” Arena told KDOC. “He strikes the ball real well, he has a lot of confidence in the penalty area, and it was a heck of a finish for that goal.”
Beckham halved the deficit in the 81st minute, his deflected shot soaring over Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon and into the far-post netting following a dozen-pass sequence that went through nine players, Villarreal among them.
Vancouver had nearly scored a third goal a minute earlier, when Josh Saunders tipped Koffie's shot off the crossbar, and Barry Robson hit the bar three minutes after Beckham struck.
The next chance fell to Villarreal.
“I was happy,” he told media. “I finally got to get on the field. I got the chance, and I'm happy I got the goal for the team, to tie it up. ... [Scoring so impressive a goal], I don't know, man. Just training every day, I guess. It comes out. You see the ball, and I just had to cut it to my left foot, and I just bent it in the far post. ...
“I just had to hit it. I just had to hit it, you know?”
He was mobbed by all his teammates, and Galaxy captain Landon Donovan told KDOC it was “up there with some of the better goals we've seen in a long time. Jose has trained really well. When he's been called on in reserve games, he's done real well. He looks good and he's confident, and when you're young like that, sometimes you're a little brash and you try things, and he tried it and he scored a great goal.”