Greg Garza, a left back, was loaned to Atlanta United on December 23rd, 2016 by Liga MX side Tijuana. Although Garza is American, he has spent the majority of his soccer career abroad, with youth stints in academies at Sao Paulo at Sporting Lisbon. He signed with Tijuana of Liga MX on Dec. 21, 2011 and quickly became a key member of the Xolos lineup. Garza has combined to make 84 career appearances for Tijuana, including six appearances in CONCACAF Champions League and four appearances in Copa Libertadores. Internationally, Garza has appeared for the U.S. Men’s National Team 9 times, most recently during the 2015 Gold Cup during a 1-0 win in group stage against Haiti. Garza made a total of five appearances, three starts, in 2014 for the USMNT, leading him to inclusion in the 2015 Gold Cup roster.
After an impressive first year in which Garza made 26 appearances, notched 5 assists, and scored goals, Atlanta United signed him permanently. He was signed to a multi-year contract in November of 2017 as Bocanegra thought he was an important enough facet to bring back.
Garza started 25 games and played 2,150 minutes for Atlanta United. He scored 2 goals and notched 5 assists while playing an important role in attack. He was extremely good on offense for a left back this year. He was second in the league in chances created (33) by a defender. He had an overall pass success percentage of 81% which was 12th in the league by a defender. While that is a decently low number, it is important to remember that a lot of defenders (especially CBs) make a lot of short passes. Garza also made the most out of his passes as he averaged 1.3 key passes a game. That’s good for 7th in the league among defenders which is very impressive. While most of his offensive statistics were impressive, there were two that he needs to work on that weren’t very good last year.
The first thing is that he was poor at was dribbling. First of all, he didn’t attempt many dribbles but more importantly the dribbles weren’t very successful. He averaged .4/.9 (44%) dribbles a game, was dispossessed .7 times a game and had 1 unsuccessful touch a game (9th worst in the league among defenders).
The second thing he needs to work on is his crossing. He only had a 29% cross accuracy and only had 1 accurate cross a game with 2.4 inaccurate crosses a game (415th in the league). That’s not great for a left back but it’s especially not good for a left back who is more attack-minded.
In defense, he was less than stellar. He was poor tackling as he didn’t dive into tackles and only attempted 2.2 tackles a game and only 1.7 of them were successful. That’s not a bad success rate but he does need to be a tiny bit more agresssive as he did let some people behind him easily this year.
Greg Garza is only 5’8” so his bad aerial success rate (53%) is understandable but I still believe he does need to work on his vertical and aggressiveness (also applies to tackling). He wasn’t very impressive with his interceptions, blocks*, and clearances as he averaged 1.8, .9, and 1.8 per game respectively. That’s not awful from a left back but he does need to work on that a little.
Last year, Garza was pretty lucky that LGP was on his side so Garza was never truly left to fend for himself from a defensive standpoint. Garza needs to improve a lot on defense, specifically tackling, in order to be considered one of the top left backs in the league. I already consider him Top 10 but if he really wants to take a step up, he needs to get better as a true defender.
“Greg is a quality left back who’s profile fits in nicely with our style of play. He has the ability to get up-and-down the line to contribute to both sides of the ball, and his experience in Mexico, along with the U.S. National Team, brings another quality dimension to our team.” This was a quote from Carlos Bocanegra when Atlanta signed Garza on loan in 2016. He was right. Garza fit in perfectly and had great chemistry with the people next to him like LGP and Asad. That led to a lot of his success this year as he could move forwards more because he trusted the defender behind him. I loved watching him play but he wasn’t great. He was pretty good but I don’t think he deserves higher than a B-.