It has been a busy week around Atlanta and a lot of the talk has been focused on the midfield and a few players that The Five Stripes may have their eyes on.
Well in all the commotion Atlanta went and signed left back Greg Garza to a multi-year deal and secured another piece of a surprisingly solid 2017 defense. While the offense got much of the press, Atlanta finished top five in the league in goals allowed. A lot of the work on offense and defense – especially early in the season – was provided by Garza and his tireless work up and down the left side. It was especially vital as the right side of the field was in flux for a while, when Tyrone Mears struggled and before Anton Walkes really settled into his role.
The Garza signing feels a bit like being in the eye of the storm where the storm is rumors about who will stay and who will go and who we should start scouting this week as opposed to last week. It’s bringing back a rock that, when healthy, is talented enough to warrant a call from the United States National Team.
The first part of that last statement should come as a bit of a warning though, as Garza has struggled to stay on the field at times in his career. His contract will most likely carry a higher number than the $150,000 he was paid last year (granted a chunk of his salary was paid by Tijuana, the club he was signed to when loaned to Atlanta.) There’s also the idea some fans had that Atlanta could have Garza or Asad but not both.
For what it’s worth, it sounds like Garza is out of contract at Tijuana and will be coming over on a free transfer. Given his ability and importance, there’s a solid chance that he will be a TAM (Targeted Allocation Money) signing.
Fears aside, Garza brings continuity, leadership and a style of play that fits what Atlanta and Tata Martino want to do game in and game out.
Beyond that, he could also become a great mentor for George Bello. Bello, a homegrown player who signed over the summer with Lagos Kunga and Patrick Okonkwo, is considered by many to be one of the most promising players in America.
Bello is just 15 and isn’t ready for MLS play quite yet, and Garza signing gives Atlanta a confident rock to lean on while they bring along the youngster at whatever pace is best for him. That pace of growth can vary player to play and it will be important that Atlanta keep him comfortable. More importantly in the short term, Atlanta needs to win games and Garza is more than capable of helping to do that. One of the worst situations that a team could deal with is deciding whether to push a young player into a suboptimal situation because said team doesn’t have a starter-quality player at the position.
Garza checks all of the boxes for Atlanta United for 2018 and there’s no reason he can’t check them for years after that as well.