Of the 400 Sueño MLS trialists fighting for 10 spots as finalists of the Los Angeles edition this weekend, many will be wide-eyed teenagers awed at the opportunity confronting them.
Not Danny Garcia.
The 18-year-old will arrive at Glendale Sports Complex having been through a wringer of experiences that few have had to endure in a lifetime. If he has an edge about him, it will be because he has a great deal riding on Sueño MLS.
Garcia has a three-week-old son who he needs to support and the memory of a daughter who he wishes to honor. He has parents he needs to prove wrong and an uncle he does not want to emulate.
It will be almost a year to the day that the most horrific moment of his life unfolded in his room at his parents’ house on April 24, 2009. He had just returned from an early-morning trip to pick up medication for his pregnant girlfriend.
“Once I came back home from the pharmacy I had a bad gut feeling,” Garcia said. “I went to the bathroom and found her bleeding and then it all happened. The paramedics came and she ended up giving birth at home in my room. I saw my baby girl come out and just dangle. I was in shock.”
Things didn't get easier. A few months later things also began to unravel at home. Garcia says a Club América scout in Long Beach was working on taking him to Mexico. That didn't meet with the approval of his parents, who he says forced him into becoming a certified nurse assistant.
He recently lost his nurse’s job and he said his parents kicked him out of their house in December. He moved into his brother-in-law’s place with his girlfriend in Anaheim, where he now resides.
“There were a lot of problems at home with me being there,” Garcia said. “My parents said that I can’t live life off a ball. Now that I get kicked out, I could follow my dreams. I have to do whatever it takes.”
The sense of urgency is greater now that the 18-year-old is a father again. His baby boy, named Danny after him, was born several weeks premature on March 30 and is expected to be in the hospital for another three months.
“They actually call him ‘SuperBaby' because they say he’s strong and he’s a fighter,” Garcia said. “He’s stable now.”
Living in Anaheim, the 5-foot-6 midfielder is currently without a club and had been scouring the web looking for tryout opportunities. That’s how he came upon Sueño MLS.
“I wanted an opportunity to make my dream come true,” he said. “I read about how someone got signed from Sueño MLS and I believed that could be me.”
Garcia only started playing the sport seriously at age 14 with a Hawaiian Gardens soccer club. Some have told him he has a natural talent similar to his grandfather and his uncle. Garcia says his uncle could have become a professional player had it not been for “getting stuck to a beer bottle.”
This weekend, Garcia will look to take the first step to be the first soccer pro in his family. As he competes against hundreds of other players for the chance to be among 10 lucky finalists, he will be carrying his late daughter’s pendant. Inspiration will not be far away.
“I want to make my parents proud and prove them wrong at the same time,” he said. “I just want to make it and prove to everyone that said to me that I can’t live life off a ball or do anything with it.”
They say that young people chasing a soccer career in search of a better life is a scenario that can only be found in other countries – not the U.S.
Try telling that to Danny Garcia.