Greg Garza Gets U.S. Call, Fulfills Lifelong Dream
A left back specialist for the past seven years, Club Tijuana's Greg Garza will get a chance to impress Jurgen Klinsmann when he joins the team in Prague for a September 3 friendly against the Czech Republic.
BY Brian Sciaretta PostedJURGEN KLINSMANN'S 22-MAN roster for the upcoming friendly against the Czech Republic featured a few surprises and many uncapped players—including Club Tijuana’s Greg Garza. “After I got the call, I just looked at my wife and I just couldn’t stop smiling,” Garza told American Soccer Now. “She said, ‘You’ve come a long way from two-three years ago.’ It’s something I would have never thought of. I’m still humbled by everything that has happened. I’m very proud that I’ve gotten here. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid and now that dream as come true.” Garza, 23, has been a stalwart for U.S. youth national teams for years, having featured from the U-14 level through the U-20s in 2011. Despite his progress through the youth program, there was a period when he thought he would never get a chance with the senior squad. After leaving Portugueseclub Estoril in 2011, Garza was out of contract and underwent a series of trials. He was in Finland and in Norway but was unable to find a fit. It was a difficult period for him that tested his patience, but at the very end of 2011 he signed with Club Tijuana and began to establish himself within the team. At first he was playing behind fellow American Edgar Castillo in the left back spot. Gradually he began to earn consistent minutes, and now that Castillo has moved to Atlas, Garza has made the position his own. And yes, Klinsmann noticed. “I thank God they have given me this opportunity and I am very thankful with this callup from Jurgen. I’m just glad he has the confidence in me.” While Garza acknowledges that he was “a little bit surprised” by the call-up, he received indications along the way that he was on the right track. Last year when Club Tijuana played a friendly in the United States, Klinsmann attended the match and told Garza to “be ready.” Garza also recalls seeing Klinsmann frequently at Club Tijuana games and the national team coach would give him similar messages. CLICK: CREATE YOUR U.S. STARTING XI RIGHT HERE This year the Xolos are in 13th place and Garza and the defense have allowed a respectable six goals in six games. The team’s problem stem from an anemic offense that has produced just five tallies. “It hasn’t been the greatest season for us as a team but I think just me locking down that position and having a pretty decent season the past six-seven games has helped a lot,” Garza said. “Inside the group there has been good chemistry from the very first day. The most important thing, especially in the Mexican league, is that if you win two-three games you’re almost automatically back in the competition to get into the playoffs. "This league can change drastically in two-three games. Drastically.” One thing is clear is that there is definitely an opening for a left back on the national team. Historically it has been the weakest position for the United States and it usually consists of players playing out of position or trying to convert to the spot later in their careers. Garza’s history with the position goes back to when he was 16 years old when he joined Sporting C.P. in Lisbon following his involvement at the U-17 World Cup. In his very first training session with Sporting, he was moved from his familiar winger role to left back for the club’s youth team, and that has been his primary position ever since. He eventually became a consistent starter at left back for Sporting’s U-19 which won two Portuguese U-19 titles. The Texas native praised DaMarcus Beasley's performance in Brazil, but with the 2014 World Cup now in the rearview mirror, a youth movement is underway within U.S. Soccer. And Garza is excited to be part of it. “Hands down to Beasley,” Garza said. “I always used to talk to him when we played against Puebla. He did a wonderful job during the World Cup. Even though that wasn’t his position, he took the responsibility. I think the experience also helped. That’s the most important thing that any player can have.” Club Tijuana has a very strong relationship with American players and has sent several players to the national team. Next week it will add another American to the mix and Garza is excited to continue his long-standing representation of U.S. Soccer and it is a step in which he feels ready. “It’s good to be back with the national team setup,” Garza said. “To go from the U-14s all the way here... that is something that was my life goal. I always told myself to focus on my club but in the back of my mind it’s always been my dream to play at the top level internationally. "I think that dream has definitely come true and I’m looking forward to it." Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.
August 28, 2014
August 28, 2014