BELL GARDENS, Calif. – There was keen deliberation and difficult choices in selecting the five field players from the LA Galaxy's tryouts in this year's Sueño MLS talent search. Picking a goalkeeper was easy.
There were some strong applicants in the nets last weekend at the Bell Gardens Sports Complex, but the Galaxy's scouts were glued to Jorge Rizo (pictured above) from the moment he stepped on the field.
The 15-year-old netminder from El Monte, Calif., demonstrated that he possesses all the tools to develop into an outstanding pro. He's pretty decent already, despite never having played for a top club.
“He's a complete goalkeeper,” former Mexican star Martín Zuñíga, Allstate's Sueño MLS ambassador, who is working with the 'keepers during the competition, raved to MLSsoccer.com. “He's got good reactions, good quickness, makes good decisions, has good agility, organizes very well. He has a high ceiling, a lot of potential, and we feel with some work he'll be able to become a very good goalkeeper down the road.”
Rizo, just a freshman at South El Monte High School, has the size (nearly 6-foot-2) and instincts of a classic goalkeeper, and since he got serious about the game about two-and-a-half years ago, has studied Real Madrid and Spain star Iker Casillas, incorporating what he can into his game.
“When I was 12, I knew I wanted to be something big. I wanted to turn pro as a goalkeeper,” said Rizo, who has been in the nets since he began playing organized soccer six years ago. “I started following Iker Casillas when I was about 12, too. He's just a great goalkeeper, and I try to [learn from watching him]. Like one-on-one situations, how to handle it. How to come out on crosses. That kind of stuff.”
Rizo has played with teams in local Hispanic leagues in and around El Monte, which is about 20 miles northeast of StubHub Center.
“The level of play is not that good,” he admits, “but my team is usually playing with seven or eight players, so I get a good workout during the game.”
He also works with his father, Jorge, on off days, and alongside his 13-year-old brother, Uriel, a midfielder with promise. The work is paying off.
“He stood out just with aggressiveness in the box,” said Paul Soufl, a former pro and one of the scouts from the Galaxy's camps and clinics department. “You could tell he owned the box. The other 'keepers, they had different sets of skills. Some are good shot-stoppers but didn't control the box, others are good on crosses but couldn't block the shots -- didn't get down, didn't have good hands.
"We just thought as a 'keeper, you need to own that box and you need to have confidence in your defenders, that you're either staying away or you're coming and getting [the ball], and they don't think twice. We thought he did a great job of controlling the box.”
Galaxy Academy goalkeeper coach Ruben Messina likes Rizo's personality and discipline and thinks “he can improve a lot. He has to keep working, keep working hard. He has something to give.”
That's Rizo's plan. He said making it to the national finals, May 13-18 at StubHub, “is the biggest accomplishment of my life. I'm very proud of myself. But I need to keep working hard if I want to make it pro.”