GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Fresh from making his first start of his short career at Club Tijuana, 20-year-old Texan Greg Garza is aiming for more minutes with los Xolos as they try to reach the playoffs of the Mexican Primera División for the first time in club history.
“The atmosphere in Tijuana is incredible,” Garza told MLSsoccer.com this week. “You walk around the city at day or night and people are congratulating you.”
The US Under-23 international shined during his full debut in Tijuana’s 1-0 victory over San Luis last Saturday, which pushed the team to within one point of a playoff spot.
A point against Pumas UNAM on Sunday (3 pm ET, Fox Deportes, Azteca America) would guarantee Tijuana and their three American first-teamers a postseason berth, as would Jaguares, Cruz Azul or Pachuca failing to win.
“A dream,” is how the bubbly left back described playing against San Luis, adding: “I think I took the opportunity very well and gave as much as I could, and thank God everything went well for me in the game.”
Despite the delay in getting his first start, Garza says waiting in the wings for his big opportunity was in no way getting him down.
“It wasn’t frustrating at all,” he explained. “I’m the kind of person that, if I’m not playing, I’ll just keep trying harder and harder until that chance comes.”
To eventually earn that chance, Garza gave his all on the training pitch, in the few games he played with Tijuana’s Under-20s and in the scattered first-team opportunities that arrived, but he also made sure to turn up early to training and stay longer than anyone else.
“I’m not going to give up or throw in the towel,” he said.
Part of the reason Garza, who had previously played for Portuguese second-flight side Estoril and had a stint in Brazil, hasn’t had the minutes he would’ve liked is the excellent form of fellow American Edgar Castillo.
Castillo has claimed the left wingback position for himself, but Garza says the three Americans in the Xolos first team squad – himself, Castillo and Joe Corona – get along very well, in spite of the competition for places.
“The atmosphere between the three of us is great, we’re good friends and I actually think there’s a big wow for there to be three Americans involved in the team and on the field,” said Garza.
Tom Marshall covers Americans playing in Latin America. E-mail him at email@example.com.