After getting off on the right foot with a 2-1 victory Saturday night over the Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy are looking for more answers from an unlikely source. Efrain Alvarez, all of 16 years old had the most memorable of debuts.
Winning is important, equally important is the success of Alvarez for this franchise.
Trailing 1-0 with 30 minutes left on the clock, new Manager Guillermo Barros Schelotto brought Alvarez in hoping for a bit of magic, and that’s exactly what he produced. Cutting the ball back on to his weaker right foot Alvarez still managed to dink a perfect ball across to Daniel Steres who couldn’t miss from 6 yards out to tie the game up 1-1 in the 68th minute.
Efrain Alvarez didn’t stop there as he and substitute Chris Pontius linked up on a throw-in that played Pontius through, only to see Pontius’ great effort deflect off the crossbar, but fortunately right to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who nodded the ball home to go up for good 2-1.
The performance overall from LA Galaxy was not great, they were fortunate not to be down by multiple goals as Chicago missed a couple of great opportunities including one off the post. In fact, LA Galaxy didn’t start playing particularly well until Alvarez came on in the 60th minute.
This was one of the problems last year in that the team kept having to constantly come from behind, particularly at home. The first half saw a disjointed attack and another injury to a laundry list of them in the midfield in the way of Romain Alessandrini.
LA Galaxy need to get off to better starts to the game so that Alvarez can come in in more relaxed circumstances so he can find his feet and a rhythm. Schelotto said after the match that there needs to be a balance when Alvarez plays, “a situation where the team, just like Efrain, can benefit from each other.”
LA Galaxy Need Alvarez to Succeed
This is vital for the franchise on so many levels.
First is the fact that LA Galaxy have not had a breakout star from their academy. How that is possible is beyond soccer minds as they are located in the hotbed of talent in this country in Southern California. Some would argue Gyasi Zardes fits that, but he was not signed directly from the academy to the first team. He played two years of college before being signed as a homegrown player.
- The franchise need Alvarez to succeed to prove that they actually have a functioning academy system and provide a clear path to professional soccer.
- Alvarez is a local product born in East Los Angeles which makes him a local product which fans can get behind.
- Alvarez fits the demographic of lots of Angelinos as he is Mexican-American.
- Alvarez speaks Spanish and English making him highly marketable.
- Alvarez could become a star of high value where the club could eventually profit greatly from his sale.
These points become exacerbated when you consider LAFC have begun competing at the academy level and players have begun to move from LA Galaxy academy over to LAFC. In sum, Alvarez can be a local hero, from the people, looks like the people, talks like the people, from the franchise that developed him, and hopefully can bring titles and money to a franchise that covets both.
One thing is for sure, the team needs Efrain Alvarez and Alvarez needs them. Zlatan offered some words in the locker room “The club, the team, the coach have to take care of him in the right way. He needs to work hard. He needs to focus and don’t lose the focus because of the hype, just continue to work.”
Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
FC Dallas vs LA Galaxy: Saturday, March 9. 12:30pm Kickoff, Toyota Stadium, Texas.