CARSON, Calif. — Julian Araujo is on a mission. Literally.
You may have noticed a twitter posting earlier this week in which the LA Galaxy’s young backliner said he is on a “different mission” in 2020. He was happy to explain what he meant Friday after training.
“I’m hungrier than ever,” the right-back said. “I’m coming into my second year of being a professional. I want it all. I’m a young guy, but I’m going to prove to the coaches that I can do a lot for this team and this organization, and I’m excited.
“There’s a lot to this mission, and I’m ready for it.”
The native of Lompoc signed with the Galaxy last March 1 when he was just 17 years old — he turned 18 in August — and went on to appear in 18 games, including ten starts. He made his senior team debut on March 16 with a five-minute stint in relief of Chris Pontius in a 3-2 victory over Minnesota United and earned his first assist as a professional on a goal by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a 3-2 win over Los Angeles FC on July 19.
A promising debut season led to his first call-up to the U.S. men’s national team in late December, but he did not play in the team’s recent 1-0 victory over Costa Rica. Araujo, by the way, is no stranger to international play, having been a member of the U.S. U-20 side that reached the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland where it lost to eventual champion Ecuador. Araujo did not play in any of those matches.
But he’s more than ready to play now, with the Galaxy’s regular-season opener on February 29 in Houston rapidly approaching.
“Coming back from the national team camp, it gave me a lot more confidence,” he said. “I’m here, I’m training every day now, I’m excited to be back with this group and to tell you the truth I’m a lot more confident than I was last year.
“I’m ready to get to work. I’m ready to get on that stadium field and ready to be with the team and do what I can do and hopefully win a championship. The vibes have been really good here, and we’re excited to get started.”
Araujo has been around the Galaxy for less than a year, but he said he already feels like he’s part of the group. He said he’s never had a problem fitting in with his teammates.
“For sure,” he said. “I’ve always felt like I belonged with this team. They’ve always made me feel so comfortable. They always give me advice, telling me what I did wrong, what I can do to correct it. This year I’m learning from my mistakes.
“I want to challenge myself, and the sky’s the limit.”
PAVON FEELING COMFORTABLE
The Galaxy recently signed Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Mexico’s all-time leading scorer, to help ease the loss of Ibrahimovic, who chose to continue his career in Italy with AC Milan. But the five-time MLS Cup champions have other options to help with the scoring burden.
One of them is Cristian Pavon, who came to the Galaxy last August 11 on loan from Argentinian powerhouse Boca Juniors and quickly drew raves for his skill set. He played in 11 regular-season games and had three goals and eight assists, followed by two goals and an assist in two postseason games.
The 24-year-old said he is ready to help pick up where Ibrahimovic left off. But he pointed out it’s not just him the Galaxy can count on this season.
“Obviously Ibra’s leaving is big,” he said. “Like you said, he leaves a hole, but I don’t think it’s that way. We do have players that are capable and have the skill and the talent to fill in, like Chicharito Hernandez, like Alexander Katai (formerly of the Chicago Fire).
“And I can do it as well. I think we have a lot of players on that level that could step in.”
Pavon, who made his Galaxy debut last August 11 in a 2-1 loss to D.C. United and scored his first goal two weeks later in a 3-3 tie with LAFC, said he is hopeful he can do that, thanks to last year’s experience with MLS that proved invaluable toward his progress into becoming one of the league’s brightest, youngest performers.
“I am very happy to be able to have that season,” he said. “The truth is I adapted quickly; I thought it was going to cost me a little more, but luckily I was able to be at a good level for the team.”
Pavon said playing in MLS met his expectations.
“Before coming here maybe three months before,” he recalled, “I was already looking at it, watching it … since I kind of found out there was the possibility of me coming here. Whenever you have that possibility of going somewhere, you start looking into how things are.
“I had heard a lot about the league, that it was a very good one. That there were teams that were very competitive to play against. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but my teammates gave me the confidence I needed to perform well on the field.”
Pavon said adjusting to a new league, not to mention a new environment, wasn’t as difficult as one might think.
“I took it with ease,” he said. “I also knew the head coach, Guillermo (Barros Schelotto, his former coach at Boca Juniors), and he’s given me a lot of confidence. Thanks to him, I was able to adapt quickly to the group.
“I feel like I am part of the family, and I enjoy every day of training. I want to try to give my best, my all, and hopefully score a lot of goals. I want to try and reach the objective of taking the Galaxy to the top and hopefully win a championship … and many championships in the future.”