After spending more than half of his life abroad, Greg Garza’s return to the United States with Atlanta United was the perfect fit for both sides.
Garza, a native of Grapevine, Texas, left the country as a 12-year-old to pursue his soccer ambitions in Brazil. After four years in Sao Paulo’s youth system, he traveled to Portugal to play in Sporting CP’s academy, eventually signing with second-division Portuguese club Estoril Praia for his first professional contract. Tijuana, Mexico was the next stop on Garza’s world tour where he signed for Xolos in 2012.
After a few seasons with the Liga MX club, hip problems which later required surgery along with bone spurs and hernias sidelined Garza for more than a year. Once his long road to recovery was complete, the U.S. international found that playing time was hard to come by.
In search of a new opportunity, Garza found one in the form of a loan deal with Atlanta United, which was preparing for its own fresh start as Major League Soccer’s newest expansion club.
“At that particular time, it was just about getting back on the field again,” Garza said. “Atlanta was a new beginning, not only for myself but for the club. It was definitely a place where I could start from zero, just as they are as an organization. That made it a lot easier to make the decision that Atlanta was the perfect place for myself and my family.”
Since joining Atlanta, Garza has enjoyed a wealth of opportunities. The 25-year-old is head coach Tata Martino’s first choice at left back and has started more matches than he did in a single season at any of his previous clubs.
He ranks near the top of the team in touches and interceptions, as well as successful crosses. Garza was also the first defender on Atlanta’s backline to score for the club when he netted his first goal against Vancouver on June 3.
“MLS, to me, was an opportunity to play again,” Garza said. “Even though other clubs had my rights, Atlanta stepped up and showed the most interest and I’m very glad I made this move.”
The move, however, did not come without some difficulties as change for his growing family seems unrelenting.
Garza does not hide the fact that he often feels like a foreigner having lived in four countries where he learned to speak three languages. His wife is Brazilian, his first son was born in Tijuana and his newborn son, who he welcomed in June, was born in Atlanta.
Adaptation has become natural for the Garza family, yet a bit of consistency will always be welcomed.
“The most important thing is if your family is happy, you are usually happy as well,” Garza said. “I just had a newborn baby. We’re proud that he was born here in Atlanta and we have a new place that we can call our home.”
In addition to everything the organization has offered him, Atlanta’s crowds have furthered Garza’s and his family’s appreciation for the city.
“I didn’t know that many Georgians like soccer,” he said. “It’s been a crazy, unreal atmosphere. Every single home game has been something to tell your grandkids about. My family is very proud to see me on the field and see what this city has done. It was a pleasant surprise for every guy that is on this team to have so many people come to the stadium and scream the whole entire time.”
Despite being on loan, Garza has high expectations for Atlanta United and hopes to be a vital piece of the team for years to come.
“Hopefully win a cup with this team,” he said. “At the moment, I know I am on loan, but hopefully make the move permanent and really find a bit more peace of mind knowing that I have a place that I can stay for the next few years.”