CARSON, Calif. – When Jack McBean received word that he wasn't in the LA Galaxy's first-team plans this year, and that he would spend the season on loan to the club's new USL PRO team, his first thought had nothing to do with what a swell opportunity it might be.
The 19-year-old forward was getting reasonable playing time and making a real contribution before a broken collarbone derailed his third professional season last year, and he hoped he'd have the chance to build on that in 2014 with the Galaxy's first team.
“If you looked at it on paper – this is my fourth year, I played a lot last year – then it kind of seems like it could be a bad thing,” McBean told MLSsoccer.com last week. “And to be honest, when I first heard about it, I was kind of bummed out about it.”
A month into the experience, he's got a different take, one shared by the more seasoned among the others sent down to Galaxy II for the year – midfielder Rafael Garcia and forward Charlie Rugg – that playing meaningful games, a whole lot of them, is going to help their cause with Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and his staff.
They're among a half-dozen players loaned to Galaxy II for the season – the others are teens Oscar Sorto, Raul Mendiola and Bradford Jamieson IV, all Homegrown players – and another six were with the team on Saturday for its second game, a 1-1 draw with Sacramento Republic FC, as LA move away from the MLS Reserve League.
“In some ways, the [former] reserve team could be somewhat of an afterthought because it's like a trickle-down effect,” said Galaxy II head coach Curt Onalfo, a former head coach with D.C. United and Kansas City, who is in his fourth year with the Galaxy. “This is something where every day you're working toward something.
"It just has a little bit more meaning, and I think everybody feels that. There's more purpose, and when the games are more meaningful, the performance is enhanced. And that's how you develop players.”
McBean, who has seven goals in 25 first-team appearances, said he's been impressed by the level of play with Galaxy II – that it's just “a little drop-off” from working with the first team – and the opportunity it affords.
“It's a 28-game season,” he said. “It's not one game every couple of months where you're not game fit and you have to try to prove yourself for one game, and that's all you can really do to show the coaches what you're doing.”
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McBean had a strong showing in the club's league debut last weekend, a 3-1 victory over the Orange County Blues, and nearly scored in the 16th minute in Saturday's Sacramento draw. Rugg, who started both games, scored the first goal against Orange County.
Garcia sported the captain's armband in both matches, while short-term loaner Kenney Walker dominated in midfield in both matches, winning USL PRO Player of the Week for his performance against Orange County.
Kofi Opare, coming back from an abductor strain, and rookie Kyle Venter also have been with the team on short-term loans, and the Galaxy, idle in MLS this weekend, sent goalkeeper Brian Rowe, defender Tommy Meyer and forward Chandler Hoffman to the second team for the Sacramento game. All three started against the Republic, and Hoffman scored the 80th-minute equalizer off a feed from Mendiola.
“We're not just training every day,” Walker said. “We're actually getting game fitness and whatnot. It's good to come out here and help these guys out all I can, then going back up [to the first team], being ready to play whenever they need me.”