On Saturday, October 3, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. LA Galaxy II will take on Orange County Blues FC in the USL Western Conference Semifinals at the StubHub Center’s Track & Field Stadium. The game, originally scheduled to be held at Nathan Shapell Memorial Stadium, was moved upon agreement by both sides in order to provide the best possible atmosphere and facilities for the clubs and fans. The game will be streamed live on www.lagalaxy.com.

Los Dos advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals following a 1-0 road victory in the USL Western Conference Quarterfinal against defending USL champions Sacramento Republic FC last Saturday night at Bonney Field.

Curt Onalfo’s Los Dos finished the USL Regular Season in fifth place in Western Conference standings with a 14-11-3 record to qualify for the USL Playoffs for the second-straight year. During the regular season the team was led in goals by Ariel Lassiter with 11 on the season and who will be returning from suspension for this game, with fellow forward Jack McBean adding an additional six goals and five assists this year.

The Orange County Blues were founded in 1998 and are based in Irvine, California. Forward Christopher Ramírez leads the team in goals this season, having tallied eight goals in 25 appearances. Fans will also want to watch out for striker Chris Cortez, who nabbed six goals and two assists in 2015, and Swiss midfielder Didier Crettenand, with seven goals and three assists.

In 2014, LA Galaxy was the first Major League Soccer team to purchase a USL Pro expansion franchise to be used as a reserve team within the club’s existing development structure. In years to come, the LA Galaxy’s decision to create a stand-alone USL reserve team may be heralded as one of the most significant in league history in terms of youth development. When the LA Galaxy formed Los Dos in 2014, it brought to my mind an interview Bruce Arena had given to Washington Post reporter Steve Goff in 2012. In that interview, Arena said he only planned on coaching a couple more years because he wanted to redirect his efforts at “impacting the technical direction of the league.” Arena mused:

That’s something that keeps my head spinning every day. It’s been very difficult to have a dialogue in the league that impacts change… We’re inefficient in how we allocate resources in the academy. There’s a likely argument where you can say we have improved the ability to move kids to the age of 17 or 18. Where do they go from there? It’s a black hole. It’s insane. We should have a USL type of league [to develop players]. Right now, the kids would be better off going to college, and then we are back to the same thing again.

If I didn’t have a team, I could focus on that, and hopefully someone would listen. You never know. All the [league leaders] think they are much smarter because they are in committee meetings their whole lives. We don’t have a tactical plan that makes sense. Our technical committee in the league has no influence on decision-making. It ends up going to the competition committee and then the board of governors. A lot of times what we say doesn’t even get to ownership. Ownership doesn’t really hear all they need to hear. It’s better, but not where it needs to be.

—Bruce Arena, to Steve Goff (May 14, 2012) “Bruce Arena discusses Galaxy, MLS, player development, his future, his son the coach and White House visit”, The Washington Post

We know by now that Arena decided he needn’t retire from coaching in order to focus on the league’s technical development. Instead, he just did both.

One of my favorite things about Bruce Arena is his ambition for the league and the sport of soccer in this country. More than any other MLS coach, Arena delights at plunging the league into untested waters and pushing it to innovate when more conservative elements within the league would prefer to rest on whatever small laurels they have achieved thus far. This is the license that Arena’s winning record with the Galaxy affords him. Arena also has the backing of a wealthy and committed benefactor in AEG (a/k/a Uncle Phil) that trusts Arena’s judgment and commits the resources necessary to bring Arena’s vision to fruition.

Arena’s decision to create Los Dos has already proved a prescient one. The year after Los Dos was created, seven additional MLS clubs announced the purchase of a USL Pro franchise for their reserve teams. Those MLS teams whose USL franchises are enjoying their inaugural season in 2015 are the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact, New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, and Real Salt Lake. Both Orlando City SC and Sporting KC have announced they plan to field USL teams next season and there have been murmurings that FC Dallas will join them. The Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union will be adding “hybrid” USL affiliation clubs in 2016 located near, but not in, their host teams’ cities (Philadelphia will operate a USL team in Lehigh Valley and Houston will operate a USL team in the Rio Grande Valley).

Of course, if Bruce Arena and the LA Galaxy had never established Los Dos, it is likely that none of the twelve USL teams referenced above would have ever fielded teams in the first place. Few of the over three hundred soccer players who will play for those USL teams next year would have ever gotten first team minutes in a competitive environment. It is very easy to be cynical about soccer in this country. However, it is folks like Arena, who refuse to cede ground to the cynics, preferring instead a pioneering spirit, who will move the sport forward. As the great Stephen Colbert said, “Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying ‘yes’ begins things. Saying ‘yes’ is how things grow. Saying ‘yes’ leads to knowledge.” Just think of all the careers that will be affected by the LA Galaxy’s decision to say yes to Arena.

For those who want to cheer on the boys of Los Dos this weekend, fans can purchase tickets for just $10 by either purchasing them online at lagalaxy.com or by calling 1-877-3GALAXY. Fans can also purchase tickets at the StubHub Center box office during the week or through walk up on Saturday. The match Saturday night will feature $2 tacos from Chancho’s Tacos and $2 beer, in addition to free entry for fans ages 12 and under.

Free parking for fans attending the LA Galaxy II match will only be available in Lot 16 through Gate I due to StubHub Center hosting another event Saturday. The Gate I entrance is located off of University Drive, which can be accessed off of Avalon Blvd or Central Ave.

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