Galaxy’s Jalen Neal, denied a U-20 World Cup spot, sees the positive

Several teams across Major League Soccer debated releasing their players for the upcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup later this month.

The Galaxy was one of those clubs.

While Marcus Ferkranus and newly signed Mauricio Cuevas were selected to the roster and have joined the team in Argentina, defender Jalen Neal was not released, which is understandable when looking at the Galaxy roster .

Neal was a member of the U-20 team that won the CONCACAF Championships and qualified for this month’s World Cup and the next year’s Olympics.

“It was kind of expected for me,” he said Friday. “In the beginning (of the season) as the season went on, I was getting more playing time. I thought it would help me get into the U-20 World Cup, but in the end, it was the reason I didn’t go.

“Obviously, I was disappointed. It was a dream of mine to go play in the U-20 World Cup, especially since this is the only chance to play in the U-20 World Cup for me, but to still be here with my team, there are still positives to take out of it. To see how much the team values me and Greg (Vanney) values me, so it’s nice to see that also. I always have motivation to reach the highest accomplishments I can, especially now that the U-20 cycle is over me, now I’m looking toward the main (U.S. National) team for sure.”

Ferkranus and Cuevas were also members of the U-20 team that qualified for the World Cup. Ferkranus has spent this season with Galaxy II and Cuevas has yet to debut, but his previous club, Club Brugge, had already given the OK for him to be selected.

As the Galaxy prepares to take on California Clasico rival San Jose on Sunday (6:30 p.m., FS1), Neal is one a few healthy center backs remaining. Sega Coulilbaly and Chris Mavinga are sidelined with injuries, making Neal’s presence even more necessary, especially as the club heads into the upcoming stretch of four games in nine days.

“There are positives and negatives (of not going), but now my focus is with the Galaxy,” Neal said. “One of the positives I’m taking out of this is knowing that the club trusts me that much, that they want to keep me for this stretch of games. It’s also an important stretch of games for us, coming off of a (Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup) win, we can use this as momentum.”

Busy days ahead

The question facing the Galaxy this week will be can the club survive the upcoming stretch?

The Galaxy played a first-team lineup in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup game. After Sunday’s home game, the Galaxy will travel to Columbus for a game Wednesday, followed by a trip to D.C. United for a Saturday game and then back home for Round of 16 U.S. Open Cup game against LAFC on May 22.

Coulilbaly, Mavinga and Douglas Costa remain injured and unavailable.

“At the end of the day, we’re going to approach this home game with everything to try and win the home game,” Vanney said. “Then we’ll assess and see where we are. I think the toughest turn around we’re going to have is between Sunday and Wednesday, within that you have to travel to Columbus and play off of two days of rest. That’s going to be a difficult transition.

“Depending how we approach Wednesday, you will probably see something a little different on Saturday. We will try to manage the guys through this week, for sure. There are a lot of guys who’ve played some minutes here or there, there are some guys at the start of the season who were starting and haven’t played a ton recently that need another opportunity again. We’ve got guys chomping at the bit to show that they’re ready to help the team and this is that opportunity for everybody to step in and contribute.”

San Jose at Galaxy

When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Dignity Health Sports Park

TV: FS1, Apple TV (free)

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