About a week ago, Greg Garza arrived in Atlanta reporting for his first session of training Camp with Atlanta United. Just five days later, he found himself taking the field, sporting the red & black stripes in the starting XI for the club’s inaugural preseason match.
Garza missed the first few weeks of Atlanta’s preseason due to his recent call up to the U.S. Men’s National Team January Camp. However, according to the Atlanta newcomer, the initial absence hasn’t affected his integration and welcome into the team.
“From the very beginning, the very first day, I think these guys really made me feel at home,” Garza said. “The chemistry was already there within the group from the two weeks in Bradenton, Fla. and they brought me right in.”
Garza feels the newly assembled team is gelling very well both on and off the field, and it showed in Saturday’s match. As far as the performance on the pitch was concerned, he was happy with the team’s effort, work ethic, and rapport, but admitted there are still plenty of areas for improvement moving forward.
“Personally I think we have a lot to work on, especially the back four, but it was good to be out there and see how we can build that chemistry and start working on the philosophy that Tata wants to implement,” he said. “It was a good first test.”
Primarily a left back, Garza brings a bounty of experience playing in Portugal, Mexico, and internationally for the U.S. From his first game with Atlanta, the 25-year-old sees a lot of promise in his newfound back line and understands that with time, the group will mesh and evolve into the solid defensive unit it hopes to be.
“I think we just need to be on the same page and realize when we need to pressure and how to keep our team as compact as can be,” he said. “As the days go by we’ll definitely have time to work on that and sit down with Tata and really focus on what he wants us to do. But it was a wonderful opportunity for us to show what we have in the team.”
It was a solid first performance from the MLS expansion club. The team tallied two goals in each half and managed a clean sheet while limiting the threats to their own net throughout the full 90. But Garza knows this is just step one for Atlanta.
“We have a few weeks before the season starts, and I think that next week will be the real test for us to see what it will be like playing against some teams from the league,” he said. “But today was a wonderful chance for us to show what we have in the team.”
They have only been together a few weeks and may only have one match under their belt, but from the players’ and the coach’s statements, it’s a cohesive group with a dedicated mentality and no shortage of potential.
Atlanta United’s next preseason opponent will be MLS side Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, Feb. 18 as their first matchup in the Carolina Challenge Cup hosted by the Atlanta’s USL affiliate, Charleston Battery, in Charleston, S.C.