Image: Minnesota United
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Last season didn’t exactly go as planned for Minnesota United attacker Mender Garcia after arriving from Colombia as a Designated Player over the summer.
In 10 appearances to close 2022, the now 24-year old managed only one goal, as the club’s injuries forced him to play in a less-comfortable wing role far more than his natural No. 9 position.
“I had expectations that I could score more goals. It didn’t happen for me,” said Garcia after training on Wednesday. “It was a season more about acclimation where I arrived to meet my teams, know the new rhythm. I think it was more of that, but now it’s different because now I have a season complete with the group and I already know my teammates. I have more confidence and the group has more confidence in me.”
That confidence seems to be growing now that the season’s begun, as Garcia, starting up top in place of absent Luis Amarilla, pounced on a rebound forced by a Franco Fragapane rocket shot early in the second half and scored the lone goal in Minnesota’s 1-0 win at FC Dallas.
“I think it was a great moment, a great start to the year,” said Garcia. “For me, it’s really important that I scored in the first game. It fills me with confidence and it’s something that the team wants and needs from me.”
When asked if he feels Garcia has earned the opportunity to compete for the starting spot upon Amarilla’s return, head coach Adrian Heath expressed a real satisfaction with the Colombian’s performance and indicated the two may be battling it out in training for the right to be at the top of the team sheet come matchday.
But, even with that competition likely to be fierce, the two strikers, along with more of the attacking front, remain close off the pitch.
“With [Luis], I’ve always had that communication,” said Garcia. “As well as with Fraga [Fragapane]…I’ve always known to communicate with them and the relationship with them has always been very good off the field and on. I hope to continue like this and I will continue supporting them.”
While the goal to score goals didn’t exactly pan out last season, Garcia seems to have the rest of the transitionary hurdles in the rearview mirror, and can now focus on doing what he feels he does best: Put the ball in the back of the net for Minnesota United.
“My expectations since I arrived have always been that I can score lots of goals, and above all, to be a goal scorer,” said Garcia. “It’s what I want and even more to achieve the group objectives with the team, that’s what we all want.”
Full MNUFC training audio from Garcia, Heath, and Zarek Valentin can be found at patreon.com/sotasoccer.