USL News Release
Thursday, January 29, 2009
LAREDO, TX – The biggest name in United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL), Laredo’s Felix Garcia, is headed to Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. Now an 18-year old target forward that finishes instinctually, Garcia came of age in the PDL with his hometown Heat the past two seasons, scoring 18 career goals in 33 games, all but one of which came before his 18th birthday.
“Back in 2006, Felix came to our practices two or three times per week,” said Laredo Heat Owner, Shashi Vaswani. “He was a high school kid just looking to get better, but in the beginning of 2007, we all got together to discuss whether or not to put him our roster.”
His first appearance with the Heat was on Saturday, May 5, 2007 at the age of 16 – a 3-0 win for the Heat at home in front of 742 spectators. He got a pair of shots off in eight minutes of action.
“He had a lot of problems adjusting to the differences of the game at first,” said Vaswani. “I mean he had only ever played high school soccer, there are no clubs or anything down here. When we put him on the roster, we decided to give him half a game or so and he just continued to get better and better until he moved out of the midfield and fit perfectly into that role of a target forward.”
After Garcia’s first career appearance, the teenager’s minutes per game continued to rise until he broke into the starting lineup and played 72 minutes against the DFW Tornados on Saturday, July 7, 2007. He registered five shots that match, but was held scoreless for another week until finding his scoring touch and first career goal in the 89th minute of a 3-1 win over the Austin Lightning.
Just three months after his first appearance, Garcia helped Laredo pack 7,000 into UISD - Student Activity Center to watch him sink one of the Heat’s most unlikely adversaries, the Michigan Bucks, with a sixth round shootout goal from the mark that claimed the 2007 PDL Championship for the Heat (Minus Garcia, the Heat advanced to the 2006 PDL Championship, but fell to the Bucks in Part I of the clubs’ rivalry that was won by Michigan, in Laredo, 2-1).
“We had our first five shooters out there with [Juan de Dios] Ibarra being the fifth,” said Vaswani. “He has never missed a penalty shot, so at 3-3 with our last shot still to come, we were thinking it was all over. Then [Steve Clark] makes a save and we need to come up with a sixth shooter.”
“Right away Felix stepped up and said ‘I’ll take it,’” said Vaswani. “He was honestly one of the only guys willing to take that shot. When he sank it, it catapulted his career.”
“We talked to the [U.S.] National Team guys and got him a tryout in Brownsville [Texas], added Vaswani. “They loved him, he started playing with the U.S.U20’s, and in 2008 he took the PDL by storm.”
Minus Garcia’s nine “warm-up” games he used to adjust from his high school/street soccer standard, Garcia has averaged 0.75 goals per game in the PDL in 24 games. Against premium defenses in the 2007 PDL Playoffs he netted one goal, a game-winner over the Fresno Fuego in the semifinals. In his finale, the 2008 PDL Playoffs, Garcia showed his dominance by netting a goal per game on his way to leading the Heat to a third straight PDL Final.
Now officially a member of the Houston Dynamo, Garcia’s incredible upside lies in his raw talent.
“In high school, he was so much better than the rest of the players that he never needed to pass the ball,” said Vaswani. “Last season with the Heat, he would draw two or three defenders and still blow by all of them, so it was difficult for us to convince him to do otherwise.”
“In Houston, he is in a great situation,” added Vaswani. “This should be another transition year for him, like the 2007 season was with us. But once he adjusts to the pace and learns the game at the next level, I think he can double or triple his effectiveness."
If Garcia continues to blossom at that rate, he would become one of the U.S.’s greatest talents, a nightmare for defenders on an international scale.
Even scarier is the fact that, as Vaswani puts it: "If the USL, the PDL and the Laredo Heat were not in place, this kid could have been overlooked.”