Position: Left back
Games Played: 11 (10 starts)
What went right this season?
When he was healthy, a lot. Garza once again proved that he is one of the most underrated left backs in MLS and in the national team player pool as well. It’s hard to judge Garza’s season based on the small sample of games he played, but he was on track for a career year before his shoulder injury in May. When he was in the lineup, the Five Stripes had some of the same magic it did on the let side of the field in 2017, when he wasn’t Chris McCann started. It’s not hard to imagine though that the left back would have continued to have the kind of performances he did against the Chicago Fire in May when he helped set up Josef Martinez’s goal with a one two played with Darlington Nagbe...
What could have been a double digit assist season ended up being another that featured injuries and missed time unfortunately.
Something else that went right is one of those things that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. In some ways, Garza was the glue that bound the English and Spanish speaking players on the team. His bilingual skills were no doubt a valuable link between the Latin American players, and coach, and the rest of the squad. His departure will not only mark a shift in the playing style for Atlanta United, it will also surely shift the mood and culture around the locker room.
What does he need to improve on?
Finishing. Garza cutting into the box with the ball at his feet is a sight to behold. The left back running onto a throughball is even more exciting. Less exciting is his end product - quite simply he is very wanting in the finishing department. It’s not hard to imagine Garza being one of the better wingers in the league if his shots found the target and not the Supporters’ Section more often. If there’s something else that he could improve on, though it may be out of his hands, it would obviously be his tendency to get injured. Out of a potential 68 games he could have played for Atlanta in two seasons, Garza missed 31 as his ailing shoulder derailed his 2018 after he finally regained health following nearly two years of dealing with an injured hip that nearly cost him his career.
What role will he play in 2019?
Garza will take his talents and incredible hairstyles to southern Ohio to launch yet another MLS franchise. The left back should be remembered in Atlanta as a player who helped create one of the most exciting styles of soccer that the league has ever seen. His linkup play with Yamil Asad and Miguel Almiron in 2017 set the tone for the team in their inaugural year and made the left side of the attack absolutely sing. In year two, he proved that he could be adaptable and play as a wingback as well as a conventional left back. Garza will bring that versatility to Cincinnati and if he can stay healthy for a full season could push for a MLS Best XI spot at his position.
Overall Player Grade: B+