HOUSTON – Club vs. country. It's an age-old dilemma in the soccer world that this week found its way to the USSF Development Academy Finals in the form of FC Dallas forwards Jonathan Top (above) and Daniel Garcia.
The U-18 strikers played a prominent role in their club's path to Finals Week, stepping up as leaders of the team, both on and off the field. So when it came time to accept a call to represent the US Under-20 squad in Northern Ireland in next week’s Milk Cup – which would have meant travel instead of playing in the Finals – both players made an unusual choice to stay home play out a chance at club glory.
“I think it speaks to the commitment to the players,” FC Dallas youth vice president Chris Hayden said. “It’s not a statement that they don’t want to be in the national team. They’re very supportive and want to be a part of that program. … It’s very rare for a kid not to [accept a call]. Certainly we’re going to support them and are happy they’re here.”
So what is their motivation? Handling some unfinished business.
Both players have for years been key parts of a strong FC Dallas Academy that has produced seven Homegrown signings and were integral parts of the team that lost in the 2011 final, 2-1 to Pateadores.
A year later, Top and Garcia saw their last chance at a Finals Week championship as too much to pass up.
“It’s a great chance being our last year we have to give it our all,” Garcia, who traveled to Chile and Peru with the U-20s earlier this year, told MLSsoccer.com. “[Our decision] shows guys we’re 100 percent committed to FC Dallas and they’ve shown us they’re 100 percent committed to us as well. We have to put it away and focus on the next two games.”
FC Dallas opened their 2012 Finals Week with a tense 1-1 draw with Chivas USA. Not the start they were looking for, Top and Garcia are looking to push their teammates in the remaining Group 2 matches against Baltimore Bay’s Chelsea on Wednesday and then against fellow north Texas club Solar Chelsea SC on Friday.
The winner of group two will play the winner of group 1 in the final on Sunday night at BBVA Compass Stadium.
“We’ve been playing well as a team with us up top and it was important for the club to have our backs on the decisions that we made,” Top, who signed a Homegrown contract in 2011 and made his MLS debut in April, told MLSsoccer.com after Monday’s draw. “I think it’s going to pay off and we have to win the next two games and help us get to the final. Hopefully it pays off for us to stay here instead of going to the Milk Cup.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.