By Colin Bado, TSB Contributor
McKinney High senior Stanton Garcia is possibly the best soccer player you don’t know about. Top Drawer.com, a soccer-recruiting tool for colleges, ranks Garcia the 15th-best player in Texas and has him in the top 150 in the nation, but because he doesn’t play for the McKinney Lions, city sports fans might not be aware of Garcia’s accomplishments on and off the field.
Garcia plays midfield for Andromeda SC, one of 80 exclusive soccer clubs in the nation created by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. U.S. Soccer created the U.S Soccer Development Academy to enhance the skills of elite players and unite them throughout the nation.
Garcia played for MHS during his freshman and sophomore years. His career as a Lion looked promising as he accumulated accolades as a freshman, including the Heart of a Lion Award, which was voted by his peers. Unfortunately, entering his junior year, the Academy passed a rule prohibiting players from participating in both school and the Academy, due to the length of the season and to avoid possible injury. Garcia was forced to make a difficult decision —the Academy or the Lions.
“Choosing between school and the Academy was a tough decision. It wasn’t easy to make, but in the end the Academy would help me more in the long run,” Garcia said.
Despite the new regulations, Garcia’s heart remains with the Lions. When time permits, he practices with the team and during games takes on the role of team manager.
“The guys at school are like my family. Once I graduate I’ll miss the bond that we share as a team. At the end of the year (MHS) Coach (Alan) Pocock creates an intrasquad tournament called the Lions Cup. It’s something I look forward to all year,” said Garcia.
On Feb. 6, Garcia signed his national letter of intent to play for Southern Methodist University. His hard work and dedication on the field hasn’t deterred him from his schoolwork. Garcia is in the top 20% and maintains a 3.5 GPA. Garcia has dreams of playing professional soccer, but he has a contingency plan if his aspirations don’t work out. Seeking to study business, Garcia has high expectations, and he anticipates entering SMU’s Cox school of business, which is recognized by Forbes as one of the premier business schools in the nation, to study marketing.
Garcia’s collegiate options went beyond that of Texas as he contemplated Louisville, the University of Dayton, and Memphis. Ultimately, he decided upon SMU for its academics, style of play, and the proximity to his family and hometown.
The Academy’s season lasts 10 months of the year and requires tremendous dedication from its players. Garcia emphasized that the long hours spent as a team have created a special bond between teammates that he will miss when he leaves for SMU next fall. Andromeda participates in tournaments throughout the nation, allowing the team to grow closer together enduring travel and long weekends spent at hotels.
This past weekend Garcia returned from a tournament in Colorado. When asked how it went, he said, “Not as good as we would have liked, but we’ll do better next time.”
A separated shoulder kept Garcia off the pitch during the fall, but he is fully recovered and has five goals this season. Even though Andromeda has struggled as of late, he anticipates a turnaround with a positive outcome.
Off the field, Garcia’s contributions may not be recognized by awards or trophies, but his volunteerism will have made a deeper impression in the long run. A long lists of non-profits, including the Salvation Army, Samaritan Inn, and Habitat for Humanity, receive the benefits of Garcia’s helping hand.
The Academy’s season will continue though June. Andromeda’s schedule can be found here, and matches are played at Russell Creek Park in Plano.