Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature / People

Soccer standout scores spot on national team

Sam Garza vividly remembers scoring his very first goal in soccer.

“Right after I scored, I just started running all over the field, laughing and jumping and waving my arms,” says Garza, a freshman standout on the DU men’s soccer team.

That first goal came not long after he first started playing the game—at 4 years of age. Today at 19, Garza has more reason to celebrate: He earned a spot on the most elite young team of soccer players in the country — the United States Under-20 World Cup qualifying squad.

The feat landed him in the DU history books as the first Pioneer to make the team. Incidentally, that means he has a legitimate shot at playing in the Super Bowl of soccer, the World Cup, which starts this fall.

How good does one have to be to make the team? “On the 20-man roster, nine were pros,” says Bobby Muuss, men’s soccer head coach. “It’s an honor for any player, but for a college player, it’s a special honor.”

What’s more, the team faced seven other world-class teams in a tournament in March and made it to the finals.

“It’s an awesome feeling to represent the U.S.,” Garza says. “It’s like being selected for the dream team. Every time you put on the crest, you think about those who’ve fought and died for the U.S.”

Just before leaving for the tournament, which was held in Trinidad, Garza sprained an ankle. The injury kept him off the field for the first two games. However, he started the semi-final and the final against Costa Rica, the eventual champion.

“I thought he played well. He looked very dangerous … [and] impressed the local crowd,” Muuss says.

Muuss minces no words when he speaks of Garza. “Sam is one of the most dynamic players in the country. And he’s getting better and better. For a player to be called in and succeed with no prior national team experience is a success within itself. We were proud of him.”

Muuss says Garza’s speed is what sets him apart.

A hesitant and humble Garza agrees and admits he’s able to “get a quick step” on defenders. “I’d say it’s my main attribute.”

Garza is quick to credit his past coaches, fellow players and his family. “They all made me the player I am today.”

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