Galaxy-LAFC al­ready ri­vals?

When the Galaxy play a U.S. Open Cup game to­day, LAFC of­fi­cials will be ob­serv­ing.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Kevin Bax­ter kevin.bax­ter@la­times.com Twit­ter: @kbax­ter11

One of the more in­ter­ested ob­servers at Wed­nes­day’s U.S. Open Cup game be­tween the Galaxy and Or­ange County Soc­cer Club will be a guy with no stake in the out­come.

Be­cause for John Thor­ring­ton, it’s not so much about who wins or loses, but rather how they play the game.

As ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of soc­cer op­er­a­tions for the Los An­ge­les Foot­ball Club, which be­gins MLS play in March, Thor­ring­ton’s at­ten­tion will be fo­cused on Or­ange County midfielders Car­los Al­varez and Mon­day Etim, the only play­ers his team cur­rently has un­der con­tract. So if ei­ther takes a shot on Wed­nes­day, it will be the first one fired in anger against the Galaxy in LAFC his­tory.

“I would of­fer a mi­nor cor­rec­tion,” Thor­ring­ton noted Tues­day. “Our acad­e­mies have played against each other.”

In that case, let the record show LAFC went 32-3 in those games. But the old­est player on ei­ther side was 12. And you don’t build an MLS ri­valry with six­th­graders.

Al­varez and Etim, on the other hand, have a chance to play for the first team next sea­son. Both were signed by Thor­ring­ton, then loaned to LAFC’s USL af­fil­i­ate in Or­ange County.

“Those guys we are mon­i­tor­ing this year to de­ter­mine what their fu­ture is,” Thor­ring­ton said of Al­varez, 26, a for­mer Chivas USA player from Los An­ge­les, and Etim, an 18-year-old from Nige­ria. “We haven’t made any de­ci­sion yet.”

If Wed­nes­day’s match is lit­tle more than an au­di­tion for the two LAFC play­ers, though, it’s a bit big­ger for the Galaxy and Or­ange County. The game at the track sta­dium at StubHub Cen­ter is an elim­i­na­tion match in the Open Cup, the coun­try’s old­est soc­cer com­pe­ti­tion and one open to teams in all five tiers of the Amer­i­can soc­cer pyra­mid.

MLS teams en­ter in the fourth round, mak­ing this the Galaxy’s tour­na­ment opener, while Or­ange County had to win its way here by beat­ing teams from Glen­dora and Azusa. An­other vic­tory Wed­nes­day would go a long way to­ward ac­com­plish­ing owner James Ke­ston’s goal of putting the team — and the county — on the na­tional soc­cer map.

“The size of our mar­ket is larger than most MLS teams,” said Ke­ston, a busi­ness­man who spent more than $5 mil­lion to buy the Irvine-based team last Septem­ber.

“We don’t need to do any­thing else other than spend a cou­ple of years de­vel­op­ing our mar­ket and our fans and re­ally go­ing out and find­ing the best youth play­ers in Or­ange County.”

Only three play­ers on the ros­ter are Or­ange County na­tives al­though a hand­ful of oth­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Galaxy de­fender Os­car Sorto, were born in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

For the Galaxy, the goal Wed­nes­day isn’t to make a state­ment as much as it is to get through the night with­out any­one get­ting hurt. The Open Cup match be­gins a stretch of six games in 20 days, a chal­leng­ing sched­ule for a team miss­ing five starters to in­jury and an­other to in­ter­na­tional duty.

As a re­sult, Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo is ex­pected to use a mix of first-team reg­u­lars and re­serves.

Thor­ring­ton, mean­while, con­tin­ues to work on build­ing a ros­ter and coach­ing staff of his own as he counts down to the day next spring when LAFC and the Galaxy play a game that mat­ters for both sides.

“Ev­ery day we’re one day closer,” he said. “We are tai­lor­ing the searches and fur­ther­ing con­ver­sa­tions with play­ers, with coaches in the hopes of hav­ing some ex­cit­ing news — hope­fully in the next month or two.”

Chris Carl­son As­so­ci­ated Pres

RO­MAIN ALESSANDRINI, right, bat­tling Philadel­phia’s Fabinho for the ball, and the Galaxy play Or­ange County Soc­cer Club tonight in U.S. Open Cup match.

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