BRIAN SCIARETTA - Thursday, July 8, 2010
With the 2011 U20 World Cup in Colombia a year away, one of the key players emerging for the US team is Sporting Lisbon left-back Greg Garza.
Garza, 18, has long been a product of US youth national teams and was part of the 2007 U17 World Cup team. Growing up within the US system Garza was used as a midfielder, however after joining Sporting Lisbon two years ago, the club has converted him into a left back and that is a position which he is now playing with the US U20 national team.
This camp in San Jose is actually the first time Garza has been able to play with the U20s. Head coach Thomas Rongen has wanted to have him in camp for awhile but club conflicts with Sporting have prevented him from taking part. Now with his first U20 camp complete, Garza recognizes the challenges of forming a new team.
"The first two days you pretty much have to get to know the players and bond new relationships because some play in Mexico, some are in college, and a few in Europe," Garza told YA from San Jose.
"You have to get a good relationship with them with the first few days after that, things start happening," he continued. "Not necessarily we are at our best, we have a lot of things to work on, but that's the beginning of every team. We have to start from zero and build up to get to the highest level. "
Garza arrived in San Jose coming off a very successful two year run with Sporting's U19 team. He emerged as a regular starter as the team's left back and they have won two straight Portuguese U19 titles in that time span.
"We've won it three years in a row," Garza said of his U19 titles. "It's the first time Sporting has ever done that. It's my second time in a row. It's one of the best parts of my career so far."
This upcoming season Garza looks to go out on loan like many other young players his age. It's a situation that is currently being handled by his agency, the Brazilian-based Traffic Sports.
"We have to see. I have to work with my agency, Traffic, to get some things worked out. You never know. Maybe second division in Portugal or look at some other countries. Traffic is working on it."
Garza has not heard anything specifically from Sporting but he hopes the matter can be resolved while he is with the U20 team in San Jose and again in Northern Ireland in a few weeks for the Milk Cup.
"They haven't said anything specific to me, just finish the season," Garza assessed. "I was on vacation for about four or five days before I came here. I'm hopefully preparing for the Milk Cup which is coming up pretty soon. While all this is going on, hopefully they can resolve somethings that are going on back in Portugal."
At Sporting Lisbon, Garza is teammates with Alexander Zahavi who is also his best friend on the team. Zahavi is a top prospect within the team's organization and has played internationally with Portuguese youth national teams.
Zahavi was born in Los Angeles and is strongly considering a switch from representing Portugal to the US national teams, where he would hope to be part of the US U20 team this cycle.
Garza said that Zahavi could help the US team and he hopes that he can be part of the team soon if he recovers from a pulled muscle he suffered towards the end of the season in Portugal.
"He's actually my best friend there," Garza said of Zahavi. "He took me to practice every day when I didn't have a car. We live about 300 meters from each other, so we are real close. A very European based player, has the skill and uses his mind very well."
"He's American born but has played in Europe his whole life," he continued "I actually think that will be a wonderful help for us to get someone very creative on the outside midfield and create a lot of great chances for us. Hopefully he can get fit enough to work with us and get integrated at the Milk Cup. I honestly hope he will be well to be with us at the Milk Cup."
Garza will likely be part of the US Milk Cup later this month in Northern Ireland as Rongen looks to start regularly bringing in his top group of players. At the Milk Cup the US will face China on July 26 and Denmark on July 28th followed by a place in a playoff game.