Former Honduras international Juan Carlos Garcia dies after fight with leukemia

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The defender scored a famous goal against the United States and played in the 2014 World Cup before his January 2015 diagnosis

Former Honduras international Juan Carlos Garcia died Monday after a battle with leukemia, his former clubs announced. Garcia was 29.

Garcia, a defender who most recently played with Wigan Athletic, was diagnosed with the illness in January 2015. He received treatment in England before returning to Honduras toward the end of 2017, according to a Wigan news release. Garcia died in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa with his family and friends nearby. Honduran media reports said his body is being transported to his hometown of Tela for memorial services.

"This is such tragic news and we send our deepest condolences as a club to Juan Carlos’ family and friends who have had to sit by and watch this sad story unfold over the past few years," Wigan chairman David Sharpe said in a statement. “We have offered what support we can but, despite the best possible treatment at Christie’s Hospital, Juan Carlos has tragically not been able to beat this terrible illness. At just 29 years old, he was far too young to be taken and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time."

Wigan will conduct a minute of silence to honor Garcia before its Jan. 13 game against Peterborough United. Spanish club Tenerife, where Garcia moved on loan after the 2014 World Cup, also will have a minute of silence to remember Garcia before its next home match, a Jan. 21 contest with Barcelona B.

Former teammates and coaches also took to social media to pay tribute to Garcia.

"Rest in peace, brother. May God have you in his holy glory," Romell Quioto tweeted. "Peace for his family and loved ones."

"How am I not going to cry, my brother?" Wilson Palacios wrote on Instagram. "I'm going to miss you a lot, brother." 

Garcia earned more than 30 caps with Honduras including a substitute appearance against Ecuador and a start against Switzerland in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup. He also played in three CONCACAF Gold Cups. The left back scored one international goal, but it is a goal that may be remembered forever in Honduras.

In a 2013 World Cup qualifier against the United States, Garcia scored a stunning bicycle-kick goal to bring the match back level. Honduras went on to win, opening qualification with a victory over the favored Stars and Stripes.

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