Galaxy-LAFC already rivals?
When the Galaxy play a U.S. Open Cup game today, LAFC officials will be observing.
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.”
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.