CARSON — After spending four seasons at UCLA, Tucker Lepley didn’t have to travel far for his first MLS preseason.
Lepley was selected in the third round by the Galaxy in the January MLS Draft. He has yet to sign an MLS contract, but with the work he’s putting in, it might not be long before that happens.
With the Galaxy down numbers in the midfield, without Gaston Brugman, Riqui Puig and Daniel Aguirre, Lepley stepped out onto the field Saturday at Dignity Health Sports Park in the starting lineup for the preseason game against St. Louis City SC.
“I’m taking it day-by-day, game-by game,” Lepley said following the 2-1 loss. “Today when I stepped out in the stadium, it was like the little kid inside of me just getting to realize part of his dream.
“Playing in the stadium was a really cool experience for me.”
Lepley made his preseason debut in last week’s closed-door scrimmage against San Jose.
“He has some game experience, some life experiences,” Galaxy coach Greg Vanney said of Lepley. “You see that maturity inside of the way he plays.”
Lepley took a redshirt his first year at UCLA and played three. He had one year remaining, but decided to make the jump.
“I was really close to getting my degree, but I felt like for me, I was ready to take a next step in my career and step into a different environment,” he said. “I felt like at the end of the day, there’s no better time for me to try and make this step. As much as I love UCLA, I love the school to death, I feel like they’ve given me every opportunity to be successful and I carry them with me every day.”
Lepley had to wait until the third round to hear his name called, but he’s not going to let that define his experience.
“I think draft day for everybody is a special day,” he said. “I don’t really think it matters when you get picked, just to see your name, that’s just made me so happy. Obviously as rounds go by, you’re curious as to where you think you might land, but for me, I was just trying to take it all in and seeing my friends get drafted as well, made me just as happy as seeing my name get called.”
Galaxy drops game to St. Louis
In their only preseason game at Dignity Health Sports Park, the Galaxy fell 2-1 in front of 12,553. Diego Fagundez scored for the Galaxy. St. Louis scored the winning goal late in the second half, after the Galaxy had subbed on several of their young Academy players.
“We got a lot of guys opportunities to feel the intensity of what an MLS game looks like,” Vanney said. “I think we had four or five Academy kids out there in the second half, three of which are under 17 (age) players that got to play and feel what this is about. Real good opportunity as preseason is to expose players to things they won’t see necessarily in the regular season and you get to get a sense of where they’re at.”
The Galaxy’s next four games will be played in Indio at the Coachella Valley Invitational. The next home game will be the regular season opener Feb. 25 against Inter Miami CF and Lionel Messi.