Garcia's versatility gives him a leg up

Pro soccer

March 11, 2007|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun reporter

The first time Carlos Garcia touched the ball in an official indoor soccer game, he scored a goal.

"It was my first shift. I was running down the line, the ball went inside and it came to me. I chipped it in," Garcia said. "That was very exciting."

That was in November 2003 against the Cleveland Force at 1st Mariner Arena, and the forward out of William and Mary has been an integral part of the Blast ever since. He was considered such a vital member of the roster that the team reacquired him in a trade shortly after the Detroit Ignition selected him in the expansion draft last summer.

"Carlos is a very important player to us because he's very versatile and does everything we ask," coach Danny Kelly said. "You can put him into a lot of different positions, from up top to second forward to midfield. He's adjusted very well since Day One."

At 25, the native of Cali, Colombia is enjoying his most productive output in his fourth season. He has a career-high 33 points, and his scoring was particularly welcome during a stretch when the Blast suffered a rash of injuries to key attackers.

"He was scoring goals when we were struggling," Blast general manager Kevin Healey said. "His production helped keep us around."

Said Garcia: "Soccer is the biggest sport in my country. There was a game all the time, after school, at night. It was my life; everything revolved around it. It helped me stay out of trouble. I've been playing since I was 5 or 6 years old and grew up in the youth division of a pro team."

Garcia was discovered by then-William and Mary coach Al Albert when he attended a camp in the U.S. one summer. He scored 121 points at the school and sparked the team to the third round of the NCAA tournament his final year. By his junior season, he was the captain.

"We learned of him from there," Healey said. "When we originally drafted him, we got a good feeling, like he was really interested in playing indoors. He has done a nice job for us."

Garcia "didn't know the [indoor] game, but there were no outdoor opportunities at first and I wanted to keep playing. I had been an attacking player all my life and I had to work hard on my defense. I learned that if you don't defend indoors, you don't make it."

His career was halted in 2004-05 after he underwent surgery for knee ligament damage and then he "came back too soon."

He was out of the country when he learned Detroit had chosen him, not a favorable thing because he had established roots in Baltimore and lives in Canton. "I was lucky enough they wanted me back," he said of the Blast.

Hard work probably was a bigger factor than luck.

"Everything happens so quickly in this game," Kelly said. "If you get beat outdoors, you have time to get back and defend. In this game you don't. A lot of guys struggle with that, but Carlos has handled it very well without getting a lot of the glory."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Tonight's game

Matchup -- Blast (14-9) at California Cougars (6-19)

Site -- Stockton Arena, Stockton, Calif.

Time -- 8

Radio -- WCBM (680 AM)

Season series -- Blast leads 4-1.

Outlook -- The red-hot Blast goes for its eighth straight victory and 10th in 11 games against the MISL's last-place team, which has lost five in a row. This is the final meeting in a series that the Blast has dominated, with its only defeat coming nearly three months ago. The Blast will be playing without Adauto Neto, David Bascome and Giuliano Celenza, all out with injuries. Machel Millwood (61 points) and Denison Cabral (52) lead the Blast attack.

Kent Baker

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