Greg Garza and his family can finally put down roots.
Atlanta United announced Wednesday that the team and Garza agreed to a multi-year contract, a reward for the fullback being an integral part of helping the team become the first MLS expansion franchise since Seattle in 2009 to make the playoffs.
Garza, 26, was on loan with Atlanta United from Tijuana in Mexico. He made 26 appearances, including 25 starts, with two goals and five assists in an All-Star season for the Five Stripes. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. There wasn’t a transfer fee, but Garza did have 1 ½ years remaining on his contract with the Xolos.
“Everything worked itself out in the end,” he said. “Family is happy and we are happy in Atlanta. Once those two things come into place, once you have a new home and everyone is happy, the soccer comes.”
The pieces started coming together after the season, which is when club President Darren Eales said several times during the season that all of the decisions on the team’s on-loan players, which includes Yamil Asad and Anton Walkes, would be finalized.
Garza said the contractual process, which lasted several months, was slightly stressful. After the season ended with the penalty shootout loss to Columbus in the first round of the playoffs, Garza said he and his family began waiting to see where he would play next. His career has already taken him to Brazil, Portugal, Mexico and the U.S.
“We call ourselves gypsies of the sport,” he said.
As such, the Garzas began preparing for whatever came next. They donated some of their possessions to refugees in Atlanta. They put the rest of their items from their leased house in storage and began traveling. First, they went to Dallas to be with his family for Thanksgiving. That’s where he found out that the two sides had agreed on a contract. He was in Orlando on Friday, and he and his family will soon head to Brazil to see his wife’s family.
Garza said it was “heartbreaking” not to be involved in the deciding game against Columbus. He suffered the second of two hamstring injuries in September in a draw at New England that eventually sidelined him for the remaining four games.
“I would have loved to have been out there as much as possible,” he said. “I was more nervous watching than playing.”
He wasn’t sure if he rushed himself back too soon from his first hamstring injury, which was sustained in a 7-0 win against New England on Sept. 13. Because the team was in the midst of playing eight games in 24 days, they weren’t training as frequently as possible so he said he didn’t get a chance to really test the hamstring before he returned for the game at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 30. But he said he did everything he could to recover from the first injury and felt OK before the second injury happened on a cold night in Massachusetts.
He said his hamstring is now fine and he’s already looking forward to next season after the team raised expectations.
“We had much more to give and hopefully we can get past this next season and bring a title to the city of Atlanta,” he said.