CARSON, Calif. – Hector Jimenez has had his chance before, and he did not run with it. Now the LA Galaxy midfielder is getting another opportunity while Landon Donovan is off at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Jimenez, 24, looked good in in the Galaxy's victories last week over Columbus and Dallas, on top of incisive performances off the bench in preceding weeks. He knows he cannot take this occasion lightly.
He netted the insurance goal in Sunday's victory over FC Dallas, his third goal of the season, and created opportunities in both games. Jimenez's efforts impressed the LA coaching staff and would seem to have earned him another start on the right side of midfield Saturday when the Galaxy visit the Portland Timbers (11 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“We've had a lot of conversations over the years with Hector,” associate head coach Dave Sarachan said. “He's had some moments in the past that he could take the reins a little bit and didn't really produce, but I think he's now accepted the importance of the role he has, and based on the performances [the past two games], he's maintained a very good level of consistency for us in the 90 minutes. So we're seeing good progress.”
Jimenez, who has also played in central midfield and at right back for the Galaxy, was hit and miss in his last big stint, a stretch of 13 MLS starts over 17 games last season. He's grown as an attacker and added needed defensive skills since then, and he's prepared for a key role in ways he wasn't a year ago.
“[This is] big-time,” said Jimenez, who this season also has scored off the bench in the May victory over Philadelphia and the loss a week and a half ago at San Jose. “We were going to miss Landon for a month with Gold Cup, and [LA head coach] Bruce [Arena] gave me the opportunities, and I've gotten some minutes, and I feel really confident. I've gotten a couple chances here and there and luckily I got a goal on Sunday. So keep building on that.”
Sarachan says the third-year midfielder has “good feet” and that “when there's pressure, I think his experience now kicks in a little bit, where he's a little more calm under pressure. He's tactically beginning to understand the position, when he needs to be wide and when he can tuck in to allow Sean Franklin to get around him. Tactically and technically, things have come together for him. It's not perfect yet, he knows there's room for improvement, but he's raised the bar.”
He's developing a nice partnership with Franklin, LA's right back and his roommate on the road, and is working to improve his concentration during games and aggressiveness going forward.
WATCH: Jimenez strikes vs. San Jose
“I've just got to be probably more consistent and make it harder on Bruce to decide whether I should play or not,” Jimenez said. “I've just got to keep building on what's going on right now and take advantage of the time Landon's gone.”
The Galaxy staff see that happening and are looking forward to seeing how he advances in the games remaining before Donovan's return.
“Sometimes when opportunity stares [young players] in the face, they don't recognize it,” Sarachan said. “And now, when you go through it after failure, now you can recognize it a little bit. Now he knows Landon's [away]. This isn't a part-time thing. This can be a full-time thing for the month and beyond.”