I happened to be around some Real Salt Lake officials in Arizona on the winter day they welcomed Olmes Garcia, a 20-year-old Colombian forward just purchased at an apparently economical price from Deportes Quindío.
You could see that they wanted to talk up their young prospect and tell me – tell anybody who wanted to listen, probably – about this kid’s huge upside. But you could also tell they were running the complex calculations and the mapping out the tricky territory ahead for talented youngsters.
Put too much on these guys and, well …. ever heard of Freddy Adu? (It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Real Salt Lake is among Adu’s former stomping grounds, one of the places where the world just put too much on the kid, way too early.) But ask too little of young stars or reap scant production and the chattering class begins wondering what the heck is going on? Who is making these critical choices? Why pay a transfer fee (still fairly rare in MLS) for a guy who isn’t helping chalk up the Ws?
Now Garcia, just named MLS Player of the Week, is slowly proving his worth – which means it’s getting harder to avoid him as topical discussion. Just ask the L.A. Galaxy, undone by two second half goals Saturday in Utah, where the home team prevailed 3-1.
What RSL manager Jason Kreis said late Saturday about Garcia:
I think if he continues to show that kind of hunger, that kind of desire, he has all the tools. He’s an excellent dribbler, excellent striker of the ball, excellent finisher, excellent with his head, excellent pace, excellent size. He’s got it all — he’s got it all. For me, the only question mark would come down to desire, and he’s showing that by the boatloads.”
You could sure see the pace on Saturday as he cruised by Galaxy defenders and worked hard to get into good spots. You could see the size as he holds off a Galaxy defender and muscles his way in for the game-winner. (All that size and pace is all the better to be spotted by Javier Morales, who keeps looking more and more like his old self around Rio Tinto; he was definitely large and in charge Saturday against the Galaxy.)
It will be increasingly difficult for fans, media, teammates and coaches not to get excited about a guy who now shares the team lead with four goals despite making just three MLS starts.
Here are Garcia’s two goals, among the highlight pack for Saturday’s 3-1 win over the two-time defending champs: