Valley View Independent School District

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2015 Boys Soccer Preview: Valley View's Garcia will be asked to carry offense in 2015

2015 Boys Soccer Preview: Valley View's Garcia will be asked to carry offense in 2015 Jan 08, 2015 11:00 AM

GREG LUCA | STAFF WRITER

HIDALGO — With 23 minutes left in the opening half of Valley View’s soccer scrimmage against Harlingen South, forward Avi Garcia let a long pass bounce once, then neatly tucked a midair volley just under the crossbar and into the upper-right corner of the net.

The astonishing play was enough to set off a small celebration, even in a scrimmage setting. As a few of his teammates gathered around him, Garcia grabbed and looked at the small No. 10 printed in blue on the front of his jersey, shaking it and drawing attention to the digits. He then looked excitedly up at the 100 or so fans in the home stands, who had let out a collective “ooh” in reaction to his feat.

Those fans have grown accustomed to seeing amazing goals from the player wearing No. 10. Last year, it was Jose “Toro” Soto, who finished his high school career with 208 goals, including a state record 78 in 2014. Now, it’s Garcia, who is tasked with replacing one of the state’s all-time greats in an effort to lead Valley View back to the state final, where last season’s run ended with a 2-1 loss to Northwest Nelson. The Tigers enter 2015 as the No. 5 team in RGVSports.com’s top 10.

“It’s hard to put the team on my back, but I’m just going to do whatever functions are needed,” Garcia said through an interpreter. “Whether I need to score goals or assists, I’m there to do whatever the team needs.”

A distributor by nature, Garcia fit in well on last year’s team, which often aimed to get the ball on Toro’s feet and watch him charge towards the goal.

Garcia is not the same type of offensive threat. His game is played less downhill, with more patience. He can score on a wide array of shots from many locations on the pitch, and he knows how to manipulate defenses and keepers to create scoring opportunities.

Sometimes, his penchant to look for the best possible chance gets him in trouble with coach Damian Magallan, who wants Garcia to be shooting whenever he sees an opening.

“We’re going to put pressure on him,” Magallan said through an interpreter. “He’s going to sometimes carry the team on his back. Last year, he saw Toro do it. So now it’s his role.”

If his choice of jersey number is any indication, Garcia is ready for the challenge. He asked Soto, who now plays with Laredo Community College, for permission to wear No. 10, and Soto granted it. Now, Garcia wears the digits that throughout soccer history have been reserved for a team’s top playmaker, the number worn by all-time greats like Pele, Ronaldinho, Maradona and Messi.

But simply putting on the jersey does not bring Soto back. When asked about the challenges of replacing not just Soto, but also All-Valley Defensive Player of the Year Erik Martinez, Magallan and interim athletic director Julio Martinez simply laugh.

“It’s a big difference,” Magallan said. “It’s a different style of play. It’s more touching the ball and attack as a group instead of attacking as one. So that could be dangerous, also.”

Valley View returns just three starters from last year’s team: Garcia, Cristian Tobias, and Evan Alonzo.

Alonzo, Valley View’s keeper in 2014, will be moving to sweeper, the result of a decision Magallan made on the bus ride home from last season’s state tournament loss. That’s how quickly preparations for this season got underway. At Valley View, soccer is year round.

Plenty has changed from 2014, but summer and fall leagues have made the transition a little bit easier. That experience has helped build a rapport among the new group, which will need better communication than in years past.

“Last year, we had Torito, and he was the main one on the team,” sophomore Jose Pesina said. “Now we have to try to work more as a new team, as a new family. … Last year, we didn’t play a lot together. We just touched the ball, touch the ball, and then Toro. This year, we have to work from the defense, to the midfield, to the offense.”

And when the ball gets to the offense it will usually be on the foot of Garcia, who recognizes the pressure he’s under to replace last season’s All-Valley MVP.

“A little, a little,” Garcia said, smiling timidly as he looks down at his cleats. “But it’s a challenge for me, and I’m willing to take that challenge.”

gluca@themonitor.com