LA's "best Homegrown Player" Mendiola makes most of US Open Cup opportunity

AJ DeLaGarza - Raul Mendiola - LA Galaxy - celebration

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The LA Galaxy brought a mixture of youth and experience to the Rose City for Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup match against the Portland Timbers, but it was the Galaxy's young attacking players that caught the eye in a 1-0 win for the visitors.

"I thought the young guys, in particular [Raul Mendiola], [Emmanuel Boateng], [Sebastian Lletget] and [Jack McBean] did a really good job," Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said after the match.

It was Boateng and Mendiola, both 22 years old, that combined for the game's only goal, putting the Galaxy up 1-0 in just the 5th minute, a lead which they defended successfully until the end. For Arena, the success of the young players in the lineup did not surprise.

"These are good experiences for these guys," said Arena. "We've had an unusual year with injuries and suspensions and national-team duty. We just haven't been able to get our team together. These guys have gotten enough time that they can get to this point to play this game and beat Portland on the road."

Mendiola, a product of the Galaxy academy who has spent considerable time with the club's USL team, brought just the qualities that Arena was looking for to get a strong start against the Timbers.

"He's a hard-working kid," Arena said. "He was aggressive getting forward. He is a very competitive player. We rate him as our best Homegrown Player right now because he is never in fear of the moment. You could see tonight that he wasn't bothered by the environment and the challenge."

Homegrown Players like Mendiola are a significant part of the future of MLS as Arena sees it. With players like Mendiola making an impact in the U.S. Open Cup and Gyasi Zardes playing for the Galaxy first team and with the US national team, the quality level of the player pool continues to rise.

"Every time a Homegrown Player gets on the field with the first team, it sets an example for your system, and all the teams in the league are hoping that the academy program that we started years ago is going to continue to produce players and maybe some players of real quality," he said. "That is a big part of the strategies of each team."