RYAN BACIC - Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Forward Danny Garcia - alongside Jose Villareal, Alonso Hernandez and others - is one of a number of players on the United States U20 men's national team with a Latin American background.
In this sense, he fits in well.
The area in which Garcia stands out is where he currently plies his trade: While Luis Gil is starting under the lights of Rio Tinto, Garcia is entering his sophomore year at the University of North Carolina, one of just five college players on Tab Ramos' 21-deep World Cup roster.
Due to his amateur status, Garcia's ultimate selection to the national team was as big of a surprise to him as it was to anyone else.
"I was thinking, ‘I probably won't make it because I'm a college player,' but once I found out I was going to the World Cup, I got really excited," Garcia told Yanks Abroad. "The first thing I did was call my parents."
Like any parents would, Garcia's had to have been extremely proud when they got that call exactly one week ago. Even if their son was going to be representing a different country than that of their family origin.
Garcia was eligible to play for both Mexico and the United States due to his parents' immigrant status, but his upbringing in Texas led him to eventually come to embrace the side north of the border. Nonetheless, he hasn't at all left his roots behind, having trained with Club America - including with the first team - at one point during the offseason.
Now, though, Garcia is back with the U20s touring Europe, as the team continues its preparations with only eight days left before the real deal kicks off. The U.S. will probably want to take full advantage of that time, too: Its warm-up tournament in France, which took place from May 28 to June 28, did not go quite as planned.
The college player was hardly the only one who found himself needing to turn his game up a notch, as the Americans only managed to top last-place Congo DR in their third game to prevent sliding even further down the tourney's 10-team table.
Not that their lackluster showing is worrying them.
"The main thing we learned in Toulon is that the game speed is very high. We have to catch up to it," Garcia said. "I'm very positive we'll get better results [in Turkey] because in Toulon, Tab brought in a lot of new guys, switched them in and out. [He] used it more as fitness for us."
Sure enough, things have picked up for Tab Ramos and Co. since then, with the U20s dominating fourth-division side Esperanca Lagos 3-0 in Portugal on Tuesday. As he did against Colombia in France two weeks ago, Garcia grabbed a goal in that contest, providing the final tally to cap off the bloodbath.
And while Garcia explained that his energy is currently being spent toward delivering the best possible result in Turkey for the U20s, he also has a big choice looming ahead of him.
U20 midfielder Mikey Lopez, now with Sporting Kansas City, was a teammate of Garcia's last year as North Carolina made the Elite Eight before falling to eventual champions Indiana. But when Lopez went pro after the season, Garcia stayed behind. At least for a little while.
"I'll see if anything comes up after the World Cup, but if it doesn't, I'll go back to UNC if nothing comes up," he said. "I'm looking at every option right now."
It may take a bit of inferring, but that first bit of repetition on Garcia's part would seem to point to a thinly veiled desire to go pro sooner rather than later. After all, if he gets minutes in Turkey, with the whole soccer world watching - as he's likely to do - then Garcia will draw professional interest.
The chances of "nothing coming up" should be slim, and, all goes according to plan for the U20s, one of the squad's last college holdouts could well be gone before the end of the summer.