Friday, February 10, 2012
Former Anteater makes Blues impression
By Scott French
CARSON -- Irving Garcia's trial with the L.A. Blues was in its first hour, and the Fullerton-based USL Pro club really wasn't looking for an attacking midfielder. But in just 45 minutes Friday afternoon, the former UC Irvine star changed everything.
The skilled Garcia, who spent a year in Guatemala after a frustrating rookie campaign in 2010 with the New York Red Bulls, was the biggest winner in the Blues' 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact on one of the training fields east of Home Depot Center's main stadium.
The single half followed a full 90 minutes for the Impact against the Portland Timbers, also a scoreless draw, that was played on the field adjacent to the field on which the Galaxy and Houston Dynamo were facing off.
The Blues, preparing for their second season in America's third-division league, were making their second appearance against MLS opposition this winter, and this one -- added to the schedule Thursday -- was a lot better than last week's 7-2 loss to the Galaxy.
“So happy we got to play this match after last week,” said Blues head coach Charlie Naimo. “You know that whole you're-only-as-good-as-your-last-game thing? And when you have that as your last game and there's not another game close? It was a blessing in disguise that [Impact coach] Jesse [Marsch]'s group called us to give their group a run. Helps us put things back in better perspective.”
Naimo used a blend of contracted players and trialists, and there were several interesting players -- Korean signings Cho Suhyung and Park Jonghoon, former Pittsburgh forward Matt Fondy and former Cal State Fullerton midfielder Kevin Venegas, just released from Chivas USA's camp, among them -- on display, but Garcia's imprint was most substantial.
“Oh, he was special,” Naimo said. “Kind of reminded me of [last year's Blues phenom Cesar] Rivera a little bit, but on both sides of the ball. Good workrate, a guy that's going to make guys around him better. There's a strong interest [we have] in him.”
Garcia, just 5-foot-5, led UC Irvine to two Big West Conference titles and NCAA tournament berths, but his game didn't translate to what Swedish coach Hans Backe was building, with a lot of European players, in New York, and he never got a chance to show what he could do. He was released a year ago and ended up playing for Antigua in Guatemala.
“[Backe] gave me the opportunity to play against good teams, like Juventus and Cruzeiro [in friendlies], some of the U.S. Open Cup games. I really learned from those games,” Garcia said. “It's a different kind of soccer [in Guatemala. I learned] just to appreciate the fields here. They have four months of rainy season, so it's hard to play over there. They have good-quality players, it's just the fields.”
Garcia is from Arizona but considers Southern California a second home, so the possibility of playing for the Blues, he says, is very attractive. An offer should arrive shortly.
“We didn't start the day looking at that position,” Naimo said, “but when somebody comes in and leaves that kind of impression, you've got to kind of change your stars a little bit. He's going to be a major discussion in the next couple of days.
“What I'm trying to think through now: We knew we wanted a No. 10, and we have a guy from Wales coming in we think's going to do a good job in that spot, but you can't have just one. I think [Garcia] can be that guy.”
WORTH NOTING: Montreal plays Tuesday against the Galaxy, followed by 45 minutes (that might be stretched to 90) against Chivas USA. The Goats play Saturday at noon against Chicago at Oxnard College. ... Venegas was a supplemental draft pick for Chivas and was one of three players (along with San Diego State defender Daniel Steres, also acquired in the supplemental draft, and Biola winger Kennedy Chongo, a trialist) released from camp Wednesday. The Blues are considering him as a holding midfielder. ... No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wenger played in midfield and up top for the Impact. ... San Jose's annual game at Cal Poly in SLO was a 2-1 win over Colorado, with Chris Wondolowski and Khari Stephenson scoring goals. The teams meet again Saturday morning. ... San Jose heads to Oxnard next.
Home Depot Center University Field 2 (Carson)
Portland Timbers 0, Montreal Impact 0
Portland Timbers: Joe Bendik; Steve Purdy (Lovel Palmer, 46), Mamadou Danso (Eric Brunner, 46), Hanyer Mosquera (Andrew Jean-Baptiste, 46), Mike Chabala (Chris Taylor, 46); Lance Davids (Franck Songo'o, 46), Kalif Alhassan (Diego Chara, 46), James Marcelin (Jack Jewsbury, 46), Rodney Wallace (Eric Alexander, 46); Bright Dike (Brent Richards, 46; Miguel Ibarra, 81), Jorge Perlazza (Sebastian Rincon, 46).