Riqui Puig is ready for his Galaxy debut.
On Friday night, Puig, who recently turned 23, will be available and more than likely will make his on-field debut for the Galaxy against the Seattle Sounders (7 p.m., ESPN) to officially begin the next phase of his career.
“I like to take risks,” he said through an interpreter Wednesday. “It’s a new city for me, I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Puig signed with the Galaxy on a free transfer earlier this month from Barcelona.
“I couldn’t have imagined that this club was reaching out to me,” he said. “The fans welcomed me at the airport, the facilities are fantastic here … I couldn’t believe that I was called by the Galaxy.”
Puig made his first-team debut at Barcelona in 2019, but he was never able to find a consistent spot on the field. It also didn’t help that the club cycled through three coaches (Ernesto Valverde, Quique Setien and Ronald Koeman) in a short period.
Even with Xavi Hernandez in charge, Puig was never able to work his way into the lineup.
That set things in motion for the Galaxy as Technical Director Jovan Kirovski started the recruiting process.
“He believed in the project and how we play,” Kirovski said earlier this month. “When I was communicating with him and his representatives, the biggest piece is our identity and how the coach (Greg Vanney) sees him and uses him.
“He’s a young kid, he was at Barcelona … they had high expectations on who he was as a player and he needs to go somewhere. The way he plays is a specific way that works in a specific system and I think that he understood the value and how important it is to play in that system and Greg (Vanney) plays with a certain way that suits him (Puig) and he knows he’s going to get the support and he will have a great chance to play and grow.”
The Galaxy has been searching for an attacking midfielder piece. Victor Vazquez, another former Barcelona product, has manned that position when healthy, with Efrain Alvarez and Douglas Costa also getting opportunities, but in more of a wide role.
“For us, he will be an attacking midfielder, whether that’s in a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, he’ll be relatively close to the striker,” Vanney said. “I want him to be himself and do the things he’s done as he continues to grow. He adds another dimension for us.
“We want the ball to be moving fast and getting in and out of spaces. He has the philosophy, he has the tools to add a whole other level to where we’re at as a team.”
The Galaxy signed Puig to a TAM (Targeted Allocation Money) contract. The length of the deal is through the 2025 season. Barcelona does reserve the right to re-purchase Puig.
In a summer of big moves around MLS, Vanney believes this is the biggest.
“I’ve been around the league for a long time, since the beginning, and for me, this is arguably one of the most significant signings in the history of the league,” Vanney said. “To have a young player of this quality come from the environment he’s been in, the club he was at, and to choose the Galaxy, to choose Major League Soccer to continue to grow his career, to feel like this is a place he can trust with that is immensely humbling for us, but also it’s huge recognition for the league.
“We’re excited to have him and the skill-set that he’s bringing us, if we continue to grow that, it’s a dynamic that we wanted to have at his club is to have young players see MLS and L.A. Galaxy as a place they could come and continue to build their career and then make the right move back to Europe and be more successful than they were before.”
SEATTLE at GALAXY
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Dignity Health Sports Park