At 24, LA Galaxy defender Tommy Meyer has had an interesting pro career.
He was the final pick in the first round of the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, joining a team featuring David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan. After finding playing time hard to come by initially, Meyer got a run of games down the stretch of the 2012 season and wound up starting all six of LA’s playoff games, including the MLS Cup victory over the Houston. 2013 saw more of the same struggles for playing time as Omar Gonazlez blossomed into a star and head coach Bruce Area’s strange love affair with the error-prone Leonardo continued.
But this year Meyer has seemingly established himself as a key part of the Galaxy. His start against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday was his fifth straight and he was Arena’s go-to replacement while Omar Gonzalez was with the national team for the World Cup. Meyer credits the newly-created LA Galaxy II (USL PRO) with helping him make the most of this year’s opportunities.
“This year it’s been great,” he said after playing every minute of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Sporting. “I played down there [with LAGII] at the beginning of the year when I wasn’t playing with the first team and I had, maybe, five games and that helps when you get a chance. You’re fit, you’re ready to play, you’re sharp.”
PHOTO GALLERY – LA Galaxy at Sporting KC, July 19
Hearing those kind of comments has to be encouraging for the Galaxy coaching staff and front office. The primary function of LAG II will always be bridging the gap between the academy and the first team, but being able to keep players not only in shape, but “sharp,” as Meyer put it, can give the Galaxy a serious leg up. And that sharpness comes from playing meaningful games, something that wasn’t possible in the MLS reserve league.
“Just getting game experience and not at the highest level, but the games matter down there. So it helps, especially the younger guys,” Meyer said when discussing the difference.
The games matter. The words stand out loud and clear. The drop off from the first XI to the bench is bigger in MLS than most leagues. Having quality depth and in-form players ready to go makes navigating inevitable injuries and fixture congestion much easier.
Meyer also says he’s feeling more comfortable in his third year.
“I think I understand more of what I need to do on a day-to-day basis and especially prepping for games. Bruce has made it clear to me what I need to work on and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that and hopefully I continue to get better in the future.”
As for that future, Meyer said the lure of Europe is always an interesting prospect. But, perhaps more interestingly, he said seeing fellow American defender Matt Besler spurn going overseas to stay in MLS doesn’t change his perception of what he wants to do with his career.
“Not really,” he said when I asked if Besler’s contract made him more inclined to turn down a future European offer. “Obviously they have a great setup here. He’s in a good environment, his family’s here. There’s no reason to [leave] when you have a great system around you.”
However, Meyer was absolutely sure about one thing. I ask him if he’d want to play in St. Louis if the city got an MLS team.
“Of course,” he says with a huge smile. “Of course.”
I maintain a Biography page for Tommy where you can find story links and other items related to his career development.
This story was contributed by Anders Aarhus aka @SportsViking our CoMO correspondent. Anders is has recently started a weekly video podcast that looks at all things US Soccer. Check it out on YouTube.com/SoccerCentral