CARSON, Calif. — LA Galaxy forward Jose Villarreal grew up watching Mexican soccer. Every weekend, he’d sit with his family in Inglewood, just a few miles up the interstate from the Home Depot Center, and watched games transmitted in from Mexico City, Guadalajara, Pachuca, and Monterrey.
But on Wednesday evening, when the Galaxy face Monterrey in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series (10 pm ET, FOX Soccer, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), he’ll leave the watching to others. Because he’ll be a little busy on the field.
“I always dreamed of playing in Mexico and to have a chance to play against them tomorrow is going to be fun,” Villarreal said after training on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a heck of an experience.”
Villarreal, 19, was coy at first when asked which Mexican club he supports but finally revealed that he grew up a Cruz Azul fan. Still, the US youth internationals knows plenty about Monterrey, who have won the past two CCL titles.
“They’ve got [Hiram] Mier, which is a young player, and [José María] Basanta, which is an experienced player,” he said, listing off two of Monterrey’s current defensive stalwarts. “They have a pretty solid backline. Their right back [Severo Meza] is with the national team.”
Meza, in fact, started for Mexico at right back in their 0-0 draw with the United States in World Cup qualifying last week.
No word yet on whether Villarreal will be in the starting XI for the Galaxy on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Arena now has the luxury of including Landon Donovan in the mix. But Villarreal is coming off a strong month in which he scored against Herediano in the CCL quarterfinals and notched his first MLS goal of the season, an acrobatic late equalizer against Toronto FC over the weekend. So despite the presence of Donovan and the return to health of Robbie Keane, he will almost certainly play a role against Monterrey.
It will be the first time he suits up against one of those Mexican clubs he grew up watching. And he admitted, he is a little torn. But not too much.
“I wish their team luck,” Villarreal said, “and our team better luck.”