Thursday, August 14, 2008
Junior Garcia, a 2005 Sunnyside High School grad, was recently named the most valuable player in the United States League's Premiere Development League.
Garcia led the Yakima Reds to a 9-6-1 record and third place finish in the Northwest Division, the team's best record since 2001.
"It felt pretty good," Garcia said of being named MVP. "It was pretty close with another guy. I think I won with my assists."
In 16 games this season Garcia found the back of the net 15 times. With his assists he is credited with 40 points for the 2008 season.
Garcia beat out players from 60 other teams across the nation for the honor.
"It's pretty exciting," he added. "It's something I'll probably remember forever."
Garcia, who plays the forward position, is a complete player in all aspects of the game, according to his coach, Hector Vega.
"He has a lot of speed and works really hard," Vega said. "He can hit the ball with both legs. He scores goals, that's the best thing."
Garcia led the nation in scoring and assists this year, something he's used to doing.
During his four-year career at Sunnyside High School he set the record for most goals scored at 146. He also set the record for most goals scored in a season with 46.
After high school Garcia played one year at Wenatchee Community College, where he led the league in goals scored and assists.
"Junior always seemed to excel since he was a freshman," his high school coach, Juan Pineda, said. "We always knew he had something special. It's nice to see him continue to succeed at that level."
Garcia's approach to the game is simple.
"I practice hard and give it my all on the field," he said. "I try to keep in shape and play whenever I get the chance."
With the MVP award Garcia and his coach are hoping doors will be opened.
"We're trying to get him to a higher level," Vega said.
Garcia will try out for teams like the Seattle Sounders this fall. The Sounders are moving up to Major League Soccer this year and if Garcia makes the team, he will play against the likes of David Beckham and other major league stars.
"It will take him time to adjust as a professional but he has the weapons to do it," Vega added.
Asked if he was ready to move up to the professional level, Garcia said he was.
"I think I'm pretty much there," he said, adding he still has some things to work on. "Once I train with them (professionals) it will bring me up to their level."
Whatever happens Garcia will still have the support of Sunnyside.
"I'm really proud of him," Pineda said. "He has the potential to play professionally. I wish him the best of luck. He represents our soccer program and our community.