THE RIGHT DIRECTION
As Los Angeles head to MLS Cup to face Houston Dynamo, teenage forward Jack McBean is hoping to emerge as a Galaxy player for the future.
The US Under-20 international has been behind the club's well-known veterans this year, but the youngster has been steadily improving and impressed when given the chance to play.
"I'm really happy with my progress this season," McBean told YA. "I've been putting in a lot of hard work. Call-ups to the U-20s are always an honor, and playing well when I get there is even better. I'm very happy with the way this season has gone and with the goals I've scored - especially lately. It's been great."
Last year, at the age of 16, McBean signed with the Galaxy and was the youngest player in franchise history. When the Newport Beach native joined the squad, there were no delusions of grandeur as McBean knew it would be a long process to break into the first team.
There have been clear signs of progress - making his Galaxy debut in a friendly against Manchester City last year, and towards the end of this season, McBean scored in a 3-1 loss to Houston in his MLS debut.
This year McBean has been given minutes in the CONCACAF Champions League where he has particularly impressed. In group play, he scored against the Puerto Rico Islanders in a 4-0 win and had two goals in a 3-2 road victory against El Salvador's Isidro Metapan.
Los Angeles have already qualified for next year's Champions League quarterfinals and it is unclear what type of team they will have.
After the MLS Cup there is the possibility for large turnover and McBean could be an important player. Still, McBean looks forward to the chance to try to lead an MLS team to a Champions League title for the time in the modern era of the tournament.
"That was a great experience for all us," McBean said of the Champions League. "El Salvador was a super hard place to play. They hadn't lost a home game in long time. To get a win was huge and we played well. That only helps. The tournament is big for us. If you're in the world championships and play against the best teams in the world, it would be huge."
The next two weeks are certainly likely to be a media circus for the Galaxy as they prepare to take on Houston in the finals which will be played in Los Angeles. Much attention will be on the veteran trio of David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan along with other prominent players like Edson Buddle, Mike Magee, and Omar Gonzalez.
McBean hopes to make the bench for the finals and believes that being part of a star-studded team has been beneficial for his career.
"It's good to be on the same time with some of those guys, for sure," McBean explained. "They're really helpful to me with the little things. They don't overload my brain with information."
"If there is something they think I need to improve on, they'll let me know. It's fun playing with world class players. It's definitely hard but every time I'm on the field with those guys I feel that I'm getting better. Just by watching them I'm learning new things."
As one of the youngest players in the league, many eyes are on McBean's development and his progression as a professional player. McBean, along with other U-20 players like Luis Gil and teammate Jose Villareal, is one of several talented young American players who are aiming to learn the game in MLS.
One of the primary goals in recent years of MLS has been to focus on developing younger players. The league has invested in reserve games and academies the past two years and players like McBean will be show the progress of this investment.
McBean is satisfied with the progress he has made at Galaxy and hopes that by next year he can begin starting important games for Los Angeles.
"I think things are going in the right direction," McBean said of the Galaxy's system of youth development. "They take a lot of concern and first team coaches are always asking about the academy and the team. They're really interested in it."
"When we have reserve training and reserve games, they're always calling up the players who have been doing well in the academy. I definitely think they're doing it the right way."
In addition to starting for the Galaxy, McBean's other big priority is the US U-20 team. After the team failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup, new head coach Tab Ramos will be hoping to reverse fortunes this cycle and that will begin with the 2013 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tournament starting in February in Mexico.
McBean has been called up by Ramos this cycle and is optimistic that the team can do well. As a forward he appreciates the team's attacking focus under the former US captain and hopes to continue to be part of his plans heading into qualifying.
"It's been awesome getting called up and it is a good group of players," McBean concluded. "I think we'll do well but we just have to focus on qualifying. Hopefully I'm in the mix. Tab is very attack-minded and he wants his players to play like that."