Not even a possible career-ending injury could keep Sam Garza from his dream of one day playing in MLS.
Two years ago, Garza missed the 2009 college season with a torn ACL. But he fought through the setback, transferred from Denver to UC Santa Barbara, made a full recovery, and excelled the past two seasons as a wide midfielder and forward for the Gauchos before recently signing a Generation adidas contract with MLS.
MLSsoccer.com caught up with Garza about turning pro and overcoming injury.
MLSsoccer.com: Two years ago, you tore your ACL. What helped you bounce back from that?
I was out of the game for nine, almost 10 months. I was away from it for so long, I was so eager to get back. I had therapy three times a week. It just made me a stronger person, mentally stronger. I tried to learn as much as I could while I was off the field; being away from the game helped motivate me to try to get back as soon as possible.
MLSsoccer: Does signig a Generation adidas contract with MLS make this a bigger triumph for you after overcoming that injury?
Garza: I think a lot of guys that tear their ACLs or people that have major injuries like that, they come back and are never the same. I just kept telling myself, "I’m going to be even better than I was when I was playing," and I really took that to heart. It’s something I implanted in my mind. I think I came back even stronger, had a very good sophomore season at Santa Barbara.
MLSsoccer.com: What do you think you’ll miss the most about playing at UC Santa Barbara?
Garza: The games were so fun. We averaged 5,000 fans a game, and obviously they do get more in the MLS, but the atmosphere there was magical. You score, you have fans throwing tortillas on the field, and obviously that’s something I’m going to miss a lot. I’m going to miss the entirety of Santa Barbara, miss pretty much everything, but the most is the games.
MLSsoccer.com: What are your thoughts on signing with MLS?
Garza: It’s a dream come true. I couldn’t be any happier. Kind of sad to leave UCSB — I played on some good teams there and I have a lot of good memories. It’s the best atmosphere to play soccer in college.
[But turning pro], it’s surreal. It’s one of those things where I’m still in shock and awe. I sat down with my parents and that was my goal at the beginning of the year, to get the Generation adidas contract, and I got it. I could talk about it all day.