CARSON, Calif. – Kenney Walker had seen time in just one MLS game – nearly two years ago – so his strong showing in the LA Galaxy's 2-1 victory Wednesday night over FC Dallas surely surprised some people.
It was exactly what the Galaxy expected.
Walker, a third-year central midfielder, was terrific in a holding position as the Galaxy reverted from their diamond to a flat four in the middle, playing a huge role in denying Dallas scoring opportunities while connecting LA's attack in their first win since April 12.
“I thought Kenney Walker was outstanding tonight,” Galaxy captain Robbie Keane said after the game, without prompting. “Simple but very, very effective, the way he played. We talked about simple passes, and at times he's taking three or four people out of the game. That's how he played, and that's how the best players in the world play. They play very, very simple, but it's so effective.
“… He was fantastic. To be fair, in training, he's been knocking on the door. He's been looking good in training, the way he's been playing. The way he played tonight, that's what he's been doing in training lately.”
Walker sat deep while fellow midfielder Juninho surged forward in attack. And Walker made just one significant error, when Jair Benitez picked off his “risky” pass in front of the Galaxy box and fed Tesho Akindele for a goal that halved LA's advantage midway through the second half.
“He's a solid player. We've known that for awhile,” defender Dan Gargan said. “He's very good on the ball, so we can find him, and he's a great outlet. You can play into his feet, and he can find the next pass. That was a big plus for us tonight.”
Walker, who debuted with 45 minutes in a loss at Houston back on May 26, 2012, has played for LA's first team in the CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup, and he was a regular in the MLS Reserve League.
He spent much of last season on loan in the NASL, first with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and then in a meaningful stint with the Carolina RailHawks. This year, he has played four games for Galaxy II, the club's USL PRO-based reserve team, winning the league's first Player of the Week award for the season.
“Going to North Carolina last year, it seemed like a world of a difference when I got back here,” Walker said. “I felt I was on a completely different playing field, from training every day to actually getting in games. And then this year, getting four games before I actually step on the field, it's a fitness level that you can't achieve in training, and you get that from Galaxy II.”
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Now he’s hoping that translates to the Galaxy.
“I don't do anything too extravagant, and then the easier I play, the simpler and faster I play, the more time everyone else has,” he said. “That's just the way that I like to play, and I feel like sometimes we need that a little bit.
"At times we get moving fast, and that suits us on of off, but there are times we're going to slow it down, and I feel I can contribute that a little bit. ... I just sit in front and pass the ball around and let everybody do their magic like they do.”