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Garcia, FC Dallas Academy Tout High-Powered Offense

U-17/18 Academy Team Honors Former Teammate with Every Goal, Victory

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U.S. Soccer Development Academy

For the FC Dallas U-17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy team, it was merely a formality before the team officially qualified for the 2012 Academy Playoffs. The team has scored 77 goals in 26 games for a 21-2-3 record (17-1-1 in the Texas Division) this season, and the offensive production is tops among all Academy teams and age groups.

That became a reality when FC Dallas blanked Solar Chelsea SC 2-0 on April 21, led by Danny Garcia’s team-leading 18th goal of the season.

“It’s been great,” Garcia said of his team’s consistent output. “We’re good at communicating with one another and we know what each player wants to do. The main thing now is to just keep on playing as we are. We don’t want to lose our mentality and give up points in the division.”

While the team itself has enjoyed continuous success and high moments throughout league play, FC Dallas faced a heartbreaking loss of a former teammate shortly before the 2011-12 Development Academy season got underway. FC Dallas Academy product and 18-year-old midfielder Jose Perez was on his way to a practice for San Jacinto College’s soccer team when a passenger-side car accident claimed his life.

The tragedy naturally resonated throughout the FC Dallas community, team staff and players. From the Academy team’s standpoint, Perez’s memory is with the group every time the players take the pitch, Garcia said.

“Everything we do is dedicated to Jose,” Garcia said. “Everybody on the team plays for him, and every game we play for him. We’re trying to win a championship for him. He’s been our main motivation.

“He was a very good teammate – responsible, humble, and he was always laughing,” Garcia said. “We really miss his smile. He lived in Fort Worth, so sometimes when we would have practice he would spend time here at the apartment. We were family.”

With Perez constantly in the team’s thoughts, FC Dallas has put together a banner season that featured a 13-game unbeaten streak (11-0-2) to start the season, including six victories in its first six games.

At the helm of the team has been Garcia, who appears to have a budding future beyond the Academy.

Garcia is committed to the University of North Carolina, where the Tar Heels recently won the 2011 NCAA Men’s Soccer College Cup. And Garcia has been called up three times to the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team under head coach Tab Ramos.

“I’m grateful to get the chance to play with them,” Garcia said of the U-20s. “Tab plays the same formation here in Dallas and he wants me at left forward. So I’ve known that position for a while. It’s perfect.”

Garcia has been a part of the FC Dallas Academy and Development Academy program since joining the U-15/16 team in 2009. The U-17/18 team’s top scoring threat these days surprisingly admits that this was one area that needed work when he first joined.

“When I came here, I couldn’t finish that well,” Garcia said of his start with the FC Dallas Academy. “The defending part of my game, I’ve grown with that. And I’ve also just become a better person on and off the field.

“At the time I was playing with the Longhorns,” Garcia said. “One of my teammates from the high school team told me to go to one of their practices. Afterward they talked to me, invited me on a trip to Mexico, and I’ve been full-time with the Academy since.”

Garcia was named Development Academy Player of the Week for Sept. 25-26, 2011, netting a key goal during a 3-2 FC Dallas victory against Andromeda FC. He mostly has played up front for the team this season, but Garcia also contributes a bit closer to the midfield.

“They play me up front on the left in a 4-3-3 formation, but I tend to drop a lot,” Garcia said. “Mostly I play up top, but sometimes they’ll play me as a No. 10 position at the top of the diamond, with the two forwards up top.”

The FCD offense has been at the forefront, but the Academy team has been strong on both ends of the pitch. Defensively, the FC Dallas U-17/18s have allowed only 12 goals in 26 games this season.

“Our goalkeepers are really good and the defense is solid,” Garcia said. “They know what to do and they stay compact. Our midfield is really good with the ball, needing only a couple touches at the most. And our forwards – we just score.”

With the regular season winding down, FC Dallas is primed to make another strong run in the postseason. Last year’s U-17/18 team advanced to the U-17/18 Development Academy Finals Week Championship Game , but lost to Pateadores 2-1.

“Last year, we didn’t come out like we always do and didn’t keep the ball well,” Garcia said. “Our defending was bad, too. It was a whole lot of problems. But as long as we keep on doing what we are doing at the moment and give everything we’ve got, we should be fine.”

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