CARSON, Calif. – Life is good for the LA Galaxy’s Emil Cuello. Make that very, very good.
The young midfielder, taken 19th overall in the first round of January’s Major League Soccer Superdraft in Chicago, got the first start of his professional career in Saturday’s 1-1 preseason tie with Toronto FC in front of an announced crowd of 11,492 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“It was honestly a dream come true,” said the 22-year-old, who displayed many of the skills that warranted his high draft selection before he was replaced by Efrain Alvarez in the 65th minute. “From the moment I stepped on the field I was filled with happiness, honestly.
“Everything about it.”
Not only that, but the former Southern Methodist University standout grew up a follower of Argentinian powerhouse Boca Juniors and the Galaxy are being coached by none other than former Boca Juniors boss Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who is in his first season as coach of the five-time MLS Cup champions.
“I’m a Boca fan, so it’s incredible,” Cuello said. “He’s a man full of experience. On the field he was a great player and on the sideline as a coach he’s done really well. He’s coached some big teams and big players and he’s done very well.
“I’m excited to learn from him. As a Boca fan it’s just crazy having him by my side.”
Cuello quickly has made a favorable impression on the new Galaxy staff with his savvy play and was rewarded for his efforts during Friday’s training session. Cuello found himself among the starters when practice began but got no confirmation he was in the lineup the following night. That came a day later, about an hour before Saturday’s match, and Cuello understandably was a little nervous. But he also said he was ready.
“I was dying to get that first touch to get it out of the way,” he said. “But once I did I got more comfortable.”
Some sage advice from the Galaxy’s Juninho also helped. The popular Brazilian, who recently re-signed with the club – he and the Galaxy parted ways following the 2015 season – did his best to help the youngster relax prior to stepping on the field.
“He told me everybody gets nervous in their first game, but just to have fun and enjoy it,” Cuello said. “He told me they were putting me out there because they believe that I’m ready to be out there and they know my potential.
“Not be too worried and just enjoy it.”
The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder, asked what he has gained so far in training camp, smiled and said “Fitness,” a reference to the demanding workouts conducted by new fitness coach Javier Valdecantos, who jokingly been nicknamed “Assassin” by some Galaxy players. Cuello also said he has gotten to learn “from people that have a lot of experience and have been in the game.”
He admitted he can feel his comfort level increasing, but he’s not quite where he wants to be.
“After tonight I feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent there yet, but I think I’ll get there soon. Like I said, it’s been a dream come true.
“I’m just happy to be here.”