The past two years have been tough for Greg Garza, with injuries halting a promising career that seemed destined to see him become a U.S. national team starter. Now healthy and eager to get his career back on track, the 25-year-old sees a move to Major League Soccer as the perfect way to regain the ground he has lost.
The Club Tijuana defender has just begun preseason with the Xolos, but he has the club's blessing to secure a move to MLS this winter. The Columbus Crew currently have MLS discovery rights to Garza, but sources tell Goal USA the Crew do not intend to sign him. Several other MLS teams are already expressing interest though, making a move back home look like a good bet for the Texas native.
"It's a huge opportunity for me to get back into the national team and to get back playing regularly," Garza told Goal USA. "The past year and a half have been difficult for me, coming off a pretty excruciating surgery and just working as hard as I could to get back in the mix here in Mexico and having spent the past five, six months not really having that opportunity to get back in that mix of playing regularly.
"It was tough to be at such a high when I did decide to get surgery. It's been a long road, but hopefully this can be a good move to get me back in the mix and get my name up there again hopefully."
Garza suffered a steep fall from grace after enduring a hip injury that first slowed him down as he embarked on a loan move to Atlas. His hip injury eventually forced him to undergo major surgery in the fall of 2015. After missing five months, Garza worked his way back into the Xolos first team, earning a start in the first match of the most recent Apertura season in July. He suffered yet another setback in his very next match, when a concussion sidelined him.
"The last six months I really thought that I had worked as hard as I could to get back in the loop and I actually started doing that, and in the first game of the season I thought it was a great way to come back and have a wonderful game. But I had a concussion the next game and never had the opportunity to show it again," Garza said.
Part of the problem for Garza upon his return from his latest injury setbacks is the implementation of new player eligibility rules in Mexico that now identify American-born players of Mexican descent as foreign players on Liga MX rosters. That, coupled with a limit on how many foreign players can dress for a match, has made playing time even tougher to come by, which has led to his decision to seek a move to MLS.
"It's been made clear here in Mexico that the door is just slightly open, and there's not much that I can do," Garza said. "The league's new foreign player policy caused me to take a big hit as well, especially coming off injury, so it opens the door to go back to the U.S."
A move to MLS could also help revive Garza's national team prospects. The national team picture may seem like a far-off goal for a player who hasn't played much in the past two years, but it's easy to forget that as recently as the fall of 2014 Garza was looking like a strong candidate to take over the starting left-back role. That was before he began suffering a loss of form due to his hip injury. In the two years since, left back has remained a difficult position for the U.S. to find viable options.
With Bruce Arena taking over for Klinsmann and making it clear he is going to take a thorough look at a wide range of new options, Garza could find himself back in the national team picture as soon as the upcoming January camp if he succeeds in securing a move to MLS in the coming weeks.
"The main thing is to get to playing again," Garza said. "Being out a year and a half here in Mexico, and not really getting that opportunity when I came back was frustrating. Just to get back playing regularly is the objective. I think MLS is the best decision for me to make, and the best opportunity to get back in the mix, and to get back into the national team picture."