BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, December 15, 2009
While many young American soccer professionals who move to Europe usually start their career in leagues in England, Germany and in the countries of Scandanavia, Greg Garza looks to start his career in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon.
It is certainly no secret that Portugal has been unkind to many young American players, however, at just 18 years old, Garza is progressing well with Sporting Lisbon's youth team.
Garza grew up in Texas playing with his youth team, the Dallas Texans, however he came into his own as a player early in his teenage years when he moved to Brazil to improve his game.
"When I was about 13, I moved to Brazil and spent time playing in Sao Paulo," Garza recalled to YA. "I lived and played there for about a year and I believe that is what really developed me as a player and gave me more confidence about myself."
A few years after that, Garza was selected to play for the United States in the 2007 U17 World Cup in South Korea. While the American team failed to advance to the quarterfinals after losing to Germany in the round of 16, Garza started every game and played well.
It was from his performance at this tournament that Garza was able to sign a professional contract with Traffic Sports, the Brazilian based sports management company. Traffic would allow him to pursue his goal of playing in Europe.
"Traffic then gave me the chance to come overseas and try to fulfill my dream and accomplish my goals," Garza described. "Thank God that everything worked out the just the way I wanted it to. If it wasn't for Traffic, none of this would have happened so I would like to give a special thanks to them for helping me follow my dream."
Traffic would soon get Garza transferred to Portuguese power Sporting Lisbon.
"My initial time at Sporting was actually great," Garza said of the start of European career. "I spoke the language fluently from living and playing in Brazil so that helped a lot with the friendship of my teammates and developing a good relationship with my coaches and other staff members."
"Sporting is like a big family whether you are just beginning the process of playing in their teams or are at the end of your junior career. They took me in as a family member right from the beginning and have helped me an enormous amount to develop even more at the highest level."
Also at his time with Sporting, Garza has undergone a position change. When he arrived in Portugal, he was an attacking midfielder but the club has begun the process of remaking him into a left back.
"I always saw myself as an attacking player and was never used to defending throughout my whole entire career growing up," Garza described of the transition. "They then transformed me into a left back and since then that is where I am every game. I actually enjoy it very much because of their style of play. It allows me to still be in the attack almost every play. I have also learned to be more aggressive defensively and personally think I have improved enormously in defending."
This past season, Garza has managed to earn time training with Sporting's first team. Training with the experienced professionals was a great opportunity he saw to further his development.
"I have trained with the first team a few times. It was everything I imagined from the players to the coaches. It actually went very well and it just gave me even more fight to give every single day to make it there one day and stay or to make it at the highest level that I can."
Garza went on to say that this season will be a pivotal year for him along with all of the other youth players in Sporting's program.
"This year is technically the year to shine for all juniors, especially juniors like me who are in their last year and then [we will try to move] to the professional world of soccer," Garza emphasized. "I will give it my all and try to stay within Sporting's hands as long as I can."
"I don't know if I will make any appearances in any first team games but that would definitely be a dream come true and I will definitely strive for that the remainder of the season."
While this season will be important for Garza, he remains ambitious to have a productive career for both his club and the United States national team.
"I feel a huge honor being apart of the youth teams and an even bigger honor in playing for my country. I would love to be a part of the USA national team as long as I can."
"My overall career goals are to make it to the highest level in a first division league, whether in Portugal or in Europe," Garza said of his long term goals. "I know that it requires a lot of work and dedication which is something that I have always had since the beginning. I will strive for my best and hopefully my highest dreams and goals will come true one day."