CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy rookie Tommy Meyer's baptism into professional soccer wasn't very smooth.
He was scorched several times as the Galaxy dropped their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series to Toronto FC, then got off to a horrendous start in their Major League Soccer campaign, then spent most of the next five months working on his game and studying from the sidelines.
The first-year center back out of Indiana University is ready for another shot, and it appears he's going to get it when the Galaxy take on Real Salt Lake in a critical Western Conference encounter Saturday evening (9 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
If Meyer wasn't quite ready back in March and April, when he was asked to fill Omar Gonzalez's shoes, LA believes he's definitely up to the challenge today.
“I definitely learned a lot in those first couple games I played, made some mistakes,” said Meyer, who is expected to step onto the Galaxy backline in place of A.J. DeLaGarza, who will miss a month or so with a sprained left knee.
“All you can do is learn from those. After those couple games, I wasn't playing for awhile. I had a talk with the coaches, and they told me what I needed to work on. I think I improved on the little things I needed to do.”
He did so in the Galaxy's intense training environment, while going the full 90 in seven of nine Reserve League games and with strong showings as LA twice shut out the Puerto Rico Islanders in Champions League group play. His best performance might have been in last weekend's draw at Colorado, when he came on for DeLaGarza in the 34th minute – his first MLS appearance since May 5 – and shined against an able Rapids attack.
“Tommy did a fantastic job, under difficult circumstances,” said left back Todd Dunivant, who was next to Meyer on the backline. “He came in and didn't put a foot wrong the whole day. I think the last two months he's stepped up his game and adapted well to this team and this league.”
Captain Landon Donovan calls Meyer “arguably our most improved player this year,” and associate head coach Dave Sarachan marvels over how far he's come.
“With Tommy, we've seen a real interesting development pattern,” Sarachan said. “Because he was thrown into it early and wasn't ready. Then he had a lot of games and moments where he could sit back and really absorb it and understand, hey, what's this professional life really about, what's this commitment mean – and he's a smart guy. I think he’s come around and he's much more mature as a young player, and he's confident. And that's important.”
Meyer, who has been on the 18-man game roster for all but five of the Galaxy's 39 first-team games this year, says he's prepared.
“I'm ready for whatever gets thrown at me ...,” he said. “It's a chance to improve and help the team. I think that's the way everyone looks at it. Hopefully, whoever gets to step in does a good job.”