CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy's need is greater than the US Under-20 national team's, so Jose Villarreal isn't headed to France for the Toulon Tournament. Instead, he'll catch up with Tab Ramos & Co. next month in Turkey.
LA wouldn't release Villarreal for the prestigious annual event in France, which begins next week, so that he will be available for MLS games Sunday against the Seattle Sounders at the Home Depot Center (11 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com) and June 2 at the New England Revolution, plus the May 29 US Open Cup match in North Carolina against either the Carolina RailHawks or Carolina Dynamo.
Galaxy defender Oscar Sorto, on the other hand, is on the US roster for the Toulon Tournament, which runs from next Tuesday through June 8.
“I think the world championship for the young players, we think that's important,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said following Tuesday morning's training session. “In the case of Oscar, Oscar isn't playing at all with us; we can let him go. Jose's been in our team, we're going to hold him back as long as necessary.”
Villarreal has started eight of the 12 first-team LA games for which he's been available, including all four MLS matches this month, and he has two goals and an assist in all competitions. He says he's spoken to Ramos, a former US national team and MLS star, and has been assured he's in the plans for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which runs from June 21 to July 13.
“I keep in touch with Tab, most of the time, and I saw him in New York [during the Galaxy's trip],” the 19-year-old forward said. “We chatted and talked about the team, and he just told me: It's not that he doesn't need me in Toulon, it's just it will be good for me to stay here a little bit more, and he needs to look at a couple more guys to put into the team. Just go from there and meet him in Turkey.”
Villarreal says he'd like to be in Toulon, where the US face group-stage games against France, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Korea, but “it's also important for me to stay here. If Bruce needs me to play, if Bruce wants me to come off the bench, I'm happy to be here, and it's good to stay home.”
MLS experience, he notes, eclipses what playing for youth national teams provides.
“That's obviously better, playing with grown men than playing with kids my age. It will make you a better player ...,” he said. “I think I'm doing a good job [with the Galaxy], I just haven't scored [enough goals]. People know me for putting the ball in the back of the net, and it's frustrating for me not to score.”
He's got a knack for scoring spectacular goals, but “I'm happy with a sitter right now.”
Robbie Keane will also stick around a little longer than perhaps anticipated — the Galaxy aren't releasing him for either of Ireland's friendlies ahead of their June 7 World Cup qualifier.
Keane will stick around for the New England game, skipping Ireland's friendlies next Wednesday against England at Wembley and June 2 in Dublin against Georgia. He'll be available for Ireland's home qualifier against Faroe Islands and a June 12 friendly against Spain in New York.
“We're following FIFA rules,” Arena said. “Robbie's an important member of our team, he's missed half the games [through injury], and these games are important. We're the ones that pay him, and he'll be there for the important games for Ireland.”