A month into Arizona United's season, and after a period of time where there was genuine concern that FC Dallas forgot you were allowed to loan players to its USL affiliate, we have our first official loanee from this new partnership: Danny Garcia.
Excited for the opportunity to play here with @AZUnitedSC and make the most out of it.— Danny Garcia (@dannyyboyy11) April 25, 2015
First, the skinny for anyone who isn't familiar with oft-used midfielders at the end of an MLS bench. Garcia hails from Dallas, Texas and was a product of FC Dallas' vaunted youth academy. In 2012 he went off to college to play for North Carolina where he appeared in 23 matches and scored four goals and tallied six assists en route to being named ACC Freshman of the Year in the country's deepest soccer conference.
Garcia opted to go pro rather than remain at UNC and he signed a homegrown contract with FC Dallas on June 18, 2013. He'd make his professional debut on May 4, 2014 in a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, filling in for an injured Mauro Diaz (no pressure). He'd play just four matches before a hamstring injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. They're the only appearances he's made before this loan spell.
So, how will this midfielder be used in Arizona and how much playing time will he get? When I spoke with head coach Michael Dellorusso way back at the beginning of the season, I asked how he would handle hypothetical loans from FC Dallas. I wanted to know was how he would balance the needs of his team with the needs of his MLS affiliate.
"If (FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja) sends players here they'll develop," Dellorusso said. "They'll come into an environment they're used to already. That's a win for them. And then at the end of the day if they're good enough and they can help us win a championship then it plays a great part for both of us."
I also asked him if there was an expectation that a loanee would definitely start if he was sent down.
"It doesn't matter what your resume is like and Dallas understands that and they know that and they know the group that we put together," Dellorusso said. "That's part of being a professional soccer player. Doesn't matter what your resume said, it doesn't matter what you did yesterday. It just depends on how you can benefit the team and how you show up."
Again, these quotes were from late March and not in direct response to this loan in particular. But it's a glimpse into how Dellorusso was thinking about potential loans before the season began. Steve Hunt, from the 3rd Degree Blog, did speak to Dellorusso about this loan and asked him about what role Garcia would play.
Will you play him in the No. 10 role, out wide or both?
Dellorusso: I think there will be a little bit of a mixture. We’ll see. He might start out wide for us at the get go, but you never know. We’ll see how he meshes with our team, with our group because obviously we’re trying to find the right combination of players but as well as obviously help him develop his game. Oscar and I have spoken about it and just open to having play either on the outside or in the middle, so we’ll just kind of see in the next couple weeks.
This past weekend, Dellorusso had a midfield of Chiva Cuevas, Jonathan Top and Joey Dillon. Despite a 2-0 loss, that midfield was responsible for some of Arizona's best run-of-play action of the season. They possessed the ball much better and created more scoring chances, even though they ultimately couldn't finish in the final third.
Without having a chance to speak with the head coach (I'll be at training tomorrow) I would guess in a perfect world he wouldn't make any changes to his starting XI, just to see if those goals finally start happening. But anything can happen in training and the "everyone must work for their spot" mantra works both ways. It's not just the new loanees who need to earn their keep.
But it's no surprised that Dellorusso's first instinct is to think of using Garcia out wide since Cuevas is the preferred man in the middle, creating chances for everyone else. In the only piece of film I could find on Garcia, he played out wide for the U.S. National Team in the U-20 CONCACAF championship against Costa Rica and was not bad in that role.
My only concern is that based on that video alone (it was all of his touches in the match), Garcia lacked any kind of explosiveness or creativity that would make him dangerous out wide in one-on-one situations against defenders. But that was one match in 2013 and I'm sure Garcia has grown tremendously in that time. And overall, he played well in that match.
Whether Garcia plays in the middle of the field or out wide, the success of the partnership hinges on "will he get better?" Before the season began, Dellorusso was confident that any loanee would develop when sent to the Valley. Now, he has a chance to prove it.