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Practice Makes Perfect for Jose Villarreal

Jose Villarreal recently joined LA Galaxy Academy after leading the Pateadores U-17/18 team to the 2011 Development Academy title. The midfielder also has experience with the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team, but when he earned a call up to the Under-23 Men’s National Team training camp in Duisberg, Germany, Villarreal expected a big challenge.

“It’s a different experience from the Academy!” Villarreal exclaimed about his first time in a U-23 camp. “It’s way tougher, a lot more physical, bigger guys, great players. It’s been good.”

When the California native heard he would be heading to Germany, he thought it was going to be for an Under-20 camp.

“Then I saw older guys on the roster,” Villarreal said. “I kind of expected it to be tougher for me because the older guys are way better than me. It’s good, though, it’s a learning experience for me.”

The players were split up into two teams for the four scrimmages that the U-23s had while in Germany. Villareal featured in both of his matches, coming on at the start of the second half in the 0-0 tie against Azerbaijan, and he started in the 3-0 loss against Bayer Leverkusen.

Though this team did not record any wins, U-20 head coach Tab Ramos was still impressed with his players.

“I think it’s been a tremendous camp,” said Ramos. “For the younger players it’s been a great experience to at least get a peek of where we need to be moving forward. We made good progress and I’m happy with that.”

Villarreal thinks that being in camp with players who are already on professional teams, like Juan Agudelo at the New York Red Bulls, Luis Gil at Real Salt Lake and Omar Salgado at the Vancouver Whitecaps, has pushed him to become even better.

“It makes it a better environment for you,” he said. “It makes you want to work harder and get to that next level.”

While in Duisburg, the players stayed in a dorm together and trained twice a day. From when the team arrived on Nov. 7 to when they left on Nov. 16, the focus of the camp was to see how they players worked together and to build team chemistry.

“We’ve got great coaches here, and you learn new stuff that you really need to become a better player,” Villarreal said. “It’s good being with Luis [Gil], being with Omar [Salgado], obviously with Juan [Agudelo]. It’s nice being able to say, ‘I was with those players.’”

Villarreal stayed in Germany after camp to improve his skills by training with a German club in the Second Bundesliga. He spent a week training with the club’s youth team.

For motivation in Germany and when he gets back to the Galaxy, Villarreal should repeat his own advice: “If you want to get to the next level, you’ve got to train hard, because practice makes perfect.”