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Thursday December 2nd

Freshman Danny Garcia dazzles his coach and teammates

UNC Freshman Danny Garcia (17) dribbles the ball in Carolina's 1-0 win over West Virginia on August 31, 2012 at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Buy Photos UNC Freshman Danny Garcia (17) dribbles the ball in Carolina's 1-0 win over West Virginia on August 31, 2012 at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

In the freneticism of a new season with a new crop of players, North Carolina men’s soccer coach Carlos Somoano has found stability from an unlikely source.

As a 5-foot-5, 140-pound freshman, Danny Garcia doesn’t immediately jump off the roster sheet. But just three games into the season, he’s already caught the eye of his teammates and captured the trust of his head coach.

“He just provides a different calm to the game than the other guys right now,” Somoano said. “We have a lot of ambitious guys that are excitable, and their eyes get big. And he’s different.

“He brings a nice measure of composure, and it stands out so much because the other guys are not.”

That composure has enabled Garcia to thrive in key situations.
In the season opener against Gardner-Webb, Garcia didn’t get the start at forward, but he assisted two of the Tar Heels’ four goals off of the bench.

That performance earned Garcia a start in Friday night’s showdown with West Virginia, and the freshman rewarded Somoano’s faith handsomely.

Friday’s match was a highly physical, defensive battle. It took until the 58th minute for UNC’s Martin Murphy to break through with the game’s only goal — and he did it off a cross from Garcia.

“He’s been absolutely unbelievable,” said Murphy after Friday’s game. “I mean, before he came in we knew he was a big-time talent … He’s got great vision, and you saw that with the pass tonight.”

Garcia said he heard Wednesday he would get his first collegiate start, and he used the two-day gap to put in extra work on the practice fields and prepare himself mentally.

That’s nothing new for Garcia, who has made several adjustments since joining North Carolina from the FC Dallas Academy soccer team.

“Early on, I had to get used to being more physical,” Garcia said. “Coming from academy, not being one of the biggest teams, not being one of the big guys either, I had to work and be more physical and aggressive.”

But Garcia’s smaller stature isn’t necessarily a disadvantage on the pitch.

“It doesn’t really affect my game — just a little,” Garcia said. “Coach Carlos wants us to play on the ground rather than in the air, so that’s an advantage I have over the guys … I’m more self-centered to the ground, so I have better ball control, and (I’m) just quicker.”

In Sunday’s 2-1 win against Boston University, Garcia earned yet another start, and though he didn’t tally an assist, he continued to dazzle with his passing ability and athleticism.

In the 55th minute, he laid out for a diving header that just narrowly missed the right goalpost. And on several occasions, he nearly connected on scoring plays with fellow forward Andy Craven.

“That is exactly what we work on in practice, and we do that day in and day out,” Craven said. “And he’s awesome. He always gets the ball, and he’s able to dribble across goal, and that really opens up the gaps.

“I’m starting to feel real comfortable playing with him.”

Obviously, Craven’s not the only one who feels that way.

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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