It was the first ever season for RGVFC in 2016. They had their perfect coach in Wilmer Cabrera, and their perfect captain in defender Kevin Garcia. Garcia, a former draft pick of the New England Revolution, arrived after a few years playing in Sweden and Ireland. He was the vocal leader of the young club, and often, as Garcia went, the Toros went. His play was impressive enough to follow Jose Escalante from RGVFC up to the first team Houston Dynamo. I was able to talk to the former Toros captain on his 2016, what he’s learned along the way in his soccer travels, and on why FIFA 17 is hating on his “speed.”
Dynamo Theory: You were the club's first choice captain. What prepared you for a role like that?
Kevin Garcia: I believe playing abroad for 3 years helped me grow significantly as a player, and as a leader. George (Malki) and I were two of the oldest on the team, so we knew we needed to help Wilmer and Dello (Toros assistant Michael Dellorusso) out in preparing the team for the season. As the season went on, everyone became a leader and we all wanted to win.
DT: At the start of training camp, did you have any idea this team would be finishing the regular season 2nd in the Western Conference?
Garcia: I didn't know much about the competition in USL to be honest. I knew by having Wilmer Cabrera as our coach, we would be playing a possession based type of soccer. As the team was getting assembled in preseason and all the pieces were coming together, I knew we would be a good side. Our goal was always to win the league. I thought we would finish in first.
DT: The playoff opener was a heart breaker, but the club had such a successful regular season, how would you rate the 2016 campaign for the Toros?
Garcia: The regular season was such a blast. On and off the pitch, we really enjoyed ourselves. We had our hearts set on winning the conference, but since we fell short by 1 point, I'll say it was an 8 overall.
DT: Along with Jose Escalante, you were signed up to the first team Dynamo from RGVFC. How nice is it to have that type of opportunity creating affiliation?
Garcia: The partnership is great for both sides. It's a very close and transparent relationship. The Dynamo staff watch all of RGVFC's games, and are able to evaluate the players on a week to week basis. Every player from RGVFC wants to play in the MLS, so it's nice to have the Dynamo so involved with the Toros team.
DT: As a player that split time between Houston and RGV, you had the opportunity to play for both Wade Barrett and Wilmer Cabrera in 2016. What are the main differences between the two?
Garcia: They're both great coaches with a lot of knowledge about the game. I've had the pleasure of experiencing both coaching styles throughout the year. Under Wade, it's been a more defend and counter type of style. Under Wilmer, it's a possession based style of soccer. Every coach has their own distinct style that works differently for them.
DT: In what area did you grow the most as a player this season?
Garcia: Tactically, I learned so much more. Wilmer and Dello helped us in the film room, and out on the pitch to understand the game better from a tactical standpoint. We spent a lot of time on tactics. It's a huge part of the game that is often overlooked.
DT: Whether it’s with Houston, or elsewhere in the MLS, where do you fit best, center back or fullback?
Garcia: I'm indifferent about it to be honest. I've had coaches who have preferred me at center back and/or fullback. Wherever the team needs help, I can make the adjustment. I played the first half of the Toros season as a CB, and 2nd half as a fullback. I'm good with either.
DT: What is your favorite memory of your time with RGVFC?
Garcia: The Vancouver game. They came down to us while in first place, and we beat them 4-0. We were able to enjoy our five day break after that. My second favorite memory is the running man video we did in the gym. *Laughs*
DT: Prior to the 2016 season, you spent a few seasons in Europe, two of those in Sweden. What was the most unique thing you came across in that time?
Garcia: Adjusting to a foreign country with different customs and values wasn't an easy transition. I struggled in the beginning, but I learned the language and started to assimilate the living style in Sweden. Everything is run so efficiently there. The food was surprisingly delicious. The weirdest custom I came across was the surströmming (eating fermented fish). That is one strong stench.
DT: EA Sports’ FIFA 17 rated your character as...let’s just say, not the fastest player. The gamers and people want to know, how fast is the real life Kevin Garcia?
Garcia: *Laughs* If that's the scouting report on me, then I have the element of surprise on my side. People who see me play everyday know I only use my speed when I need to.