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March 17, 2007
New Galaxy Rios youth program signs local

By Andrea Canales Associate Editor

Tristan Bowen is the first player to commit to the Galaxy's youth team program, Galaxy Rios.
Tristan Bowen is the first player to commit to the Galaxy's youth team program, Galaxy Rios.
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Galaxy
The Los Angeles Galaxy will officially launch its new youth development program, Galaxy Rios, in April, but the organization has already recruited its first player.

16-year-old forward Tristan Bowen, from Van Nuys, snuck into the Galaxy’s earlier open tryouts, hoping to get noticed. Ultimately, he was successful, even when his ruse to slip under the aged-18 requirement was discovered.

“We were surprised, because he played with a higher quality of play than he was with at the tryouts,” said Galaxy assistant coach Trevor James, who is also now the director of player development for the Galaxy Rios program. “There were a lot of people that caught our eye in terms of potential that they might become better players, but just his overall game was good. We thought he was older than he was. But it’s a bonus for us, because we’re going to get him at sixteen, when we thought we were going to get him at eighteen or so.”

Bowen was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he has played soccer for local teams for years.

The Galaxy Rios program aims to discover other similar talents around the Southland, which is the area designated at the MLS youth team’s territory.

“We’ve got people we can work with,” said James. “We think there are a lot of other players in the LA area who will be similar, so we’ll look at players who think they have a chance to move on to the next level.”

The goal is to find elite prospects from the start.

“We’re developing players who are hopefully going to become professionals of the Galaxy,” Lalas pointed out. “That’s not easy. We’re talking about a very small percentage. As much as I think that there is something for everyone in soccer, whether you’re going to become the next Landon Donovan or whether you’re going to just run around on Sundays with your beer, our job here is the next Landon Donovan.”

Though it has been set that the Galaxy will run two youth teams, a U15 and a U18 squad, various other aspects still need to be settled. The Galaxy have yet to finalize many aspects of the two new squads, and may also bring in some players by invitation.

“We haven’t finalized the tryouts or the arrangement of coaches,” explained James. “It will certainly be about giving everyone an opportunity. Part of my job is to get out there and find players of different backgrounds. It will be open to everybody.”

Though there has already been some friction with local youth leagues, Lalas was looking for a cooperative plan to possibly succeed.

“This is a work in progress,” stated Lalas. “We are just starting out and I truly believe that we can learn from the incredible wealth of talent and expertise that exists in the youth soccer community. We don’t have all the answers. This is going to be a progression and it is going to grow over time.”

Certain objectives stood out for Lalas.

“We will get the best competition that we possibly can and we will develop these players right off the bat,” emphasized Lalas. “They will play in as many games as possible that we feel are competitive. We’ll go from there. Next year, hopefully, we can get bigger. I truly believe that we can coexist with the youth soccer programs that exist in the area and I think they can benefit from our involvement. We can also benefit from having them around.”

The long-term potential of the program appealed to James.

“From our point of view, we’ve got a chance to develop players and bring them through,” James noted. “Whether it changes the league, I don’t know, but it’s certainly given us the goal to try to produce players in the next three years to come in and play for the senior teams, hopefully. It’ll take a little while, but we hope the progression will continue to the day when people put on the jersey on a Saturday evening.”

It could be that Tristan Bowen might become one of the first such players to do for the Galaxy.

“Once he’s been named to our youth roster for 24 months, he’s eligible to miss the draft (and sign directly to the Galaxy roster),” detailed James. “I would look for the next two years to be developmental with the youth teams, and then hopefully, the following year, if he progresses – and a lot can happen in two years – we can try to include him in some of the senior team stuff, like reserve games. But we’ll address that down the road.”
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