Villarreal, 20, had featured for Cruz Azul’s U-20 side twice, scoring once. He'll move to the Ascenso MX side, along with former San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Rafael Baca, in order to “continue their process of adaptation.”
They could debut as early as Wednesday, when Cruz Azul Hidalgo – third in the Ascenso MX – travel to Monterrey in the Copa MX.
Villarreal, a forward, signed as a Homegrown player with the Galaxy in late 2011 and scored three goals in 32 MLS appearances before heading south on loan for the whole 2014 MLS season. The Mexican giants also have the option to buy the Inglewood, Calif., native and former US youth international after that.
Baca, who is not a US citizen, was born in Mexico and signed as an undrafted free agent by the Earthquakes in July 2011 before locking down a starting spot in the 2012 season. He totaled 79 regular season appearances for the Quakes, registering two goals and nine assists.
Former Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Farfan, who along with Baca joined Cruz Azul permanently, is set to stay on with La Máquina in Mexico City as they fight to hold the top spot in Liga MX and prepare to battle Sporting Kansas City in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals next month.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.