Photo Courtesy of LA Galaxy

Galaxy’s DePuy comes through in the Nick of time

CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy entered Saturday’s preseason match against Toronto FC at Dignity Health Sports Park a bit short-handed. Actually, that might be putting it mildly.

They weren’t necessarily lacking numbers in their attack, with new striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez playing for the first time in a Galaxy kit, but they definitely were hurting on a defense missing two starters in right back Rolf Feltscher and center back Dan Steres — a team spokesman said both players “were not feeling 100 percent” — and head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto was forced to go deep into his reserves.

Julian Araujo, who turns 19 in August, took over for Feltscher, and Nick DePuy, an unheralded 25-year-old from Irvine, replaced Steres. Suffice to play both players performed admirably, especially the 6-foot-5, 205-pound DePuy who more than held his own against Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore, a veteran of the U.S. men’s national team and one of the most physical players in Major League Soccer.

DePuy said he enjoyed the challenge.

“He’s massive and obviously a very good player,” DePuy said of the muscular Altidore, who was listed at 6-1 and 174 pounds but appeared at least 15 pounds heavier. “It gets physical out there obviously, but I respect Jozy a lot.

“It was really cool to play against him. He’s a very good forward, and I’m glad I was able to go against him.”

DePuy, who signed with the Galaxy on Feb. 5, originally was taken with the 19th overall selection by the Montreal Impact following a four-year career at UC Santa Barbara and made five appearances (including one start) before going on loan to Montreal’s USL affiliate, Ottawa Fury FC.

He then signed with Galaxy II last March and was called up to the senior team that summer. He even saw action in the Leagues Cup — he went the full 90 minutes in a loss to Cruz Azul — and Galaxy officials apparently saw enough to reward him with a first-team contract earlier this month.

“Being able to play in a game like that last year was very good for my confidence as well as showing the coaches I’m able to play at that level,” he said.

DePuy followed that up with a solid performance Saturday and clearly was one of the Galaxy’s best players in the loss.

“I felt good,” he said. “It’s been a long preseason so far, and I feel fit. It was good to go 90 (minutes), especially in the stadium with the atmosphere and a good squad to play against.

“It was good.”

DePuy said he is ready to take the next step, wherever that leads him.

“Obviously, it’s my first year on the first team,” he said. “I want to make squads, make games; I want to take my opportunities and run with them. It’s a long season, and I know there’s going to be opportunities along the way.

“I love playing soccer, it’s what I’ve been playing my whole life. I’ve given everything to it, and I’m very passionate about it. I work to achieve my goals, and this is one of my goals, to be on the first team here.

“Obviously, I have more goals going forward, but this is definitely a huge step in my career,” he continued. “Now, let’s see where it goes.”