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Horton: New RSL forward Garcia one for the future

21 February 1:15 pm

Horton: New RSL forward Garcia one for the future

By Jeremy Horton

The most-discussed acquisition of the RSL offseason came to a head this past week as the identity of the unsigned forward nicknamed "Striker X" was revealed to be Olmes Garcia, a 20-year-old who last played for Deportes Quindio in Colombia's First Division. With the anticipation surrounding Garcia's arrival, the next question Salt Lake fans should have is, when can we expect him to take the pitch? Will he contribute right away or is he more of a project?

The answer may be a bit of both. We already saw Garcia get some minutes on Wednesday against the Revolution in the Desert Diamond Cup, but the answer to when he can expect to get meaningful league playing time is a bit more complicated. Garcia has some things working in his favor and some things working against him...see below.

Working in Garcia's favor:

  • Size - Olmes is 6-foot and is supposedly strong in the air, meaning he should have the size and aerial prowess to fill in for fellow forward Alvaro Saborio.
  • Speed - His raw speed will enable him to play alongside Saborio. On Wednesday, RSL GM Garth Lagerwey told Bill Riley and Hans Olsen on ESPN 700 radio that it was Garcia's speed that first put him on RSL's radar. "He has tons of speed," said Lagerwey. "That speed is key to opening up the field."
  • Pro experience - It's odd to say experience is an asset when talking about a 20-year-old, but the fact is Garcia has been a pro for two years. He’s been playing - and scoring - in the Colombian First Division, a league that's comparable to MLS. His acclimation to the rigors of MLS should be less than a player coming from a lower division or college soccer.
  • System - 'OG' is fortunate that his previous employer played a 4-1-2-1-2 that's similar to RSL’s system. That could help him adapt to the Claret-and-Cobalt’s style.

Working against him:

  • Age - Garcia may have more pro experience than any underage RSL player not named Luis Gil, but the fact is he is just 20. We can't call him a seasoned veteran yet.
  • Late arrival – Garcia’s late arrival in the U.S. mean that he'll end up with less than two weeks of preseason instruction. In my mind that makes him less likely to contribute right away than if he had shown up in January.
  • New environment/new language - Garcia speaks very little English and has never spent time in the United States, which could hamper his ability to integrate quickly. Lagerwey told Bill and Hans that "he's from a different culture so he's going to take some time."
  • Depth - With a complement of healthy strikers expected on opening day, the coaching staff won't be handing starting striker spots out like concert flyers. Garcia will have to earn himself a spot, and that won't be easy given the striker corps RSL has assembled.

I look at Olmes Garcia very similar to how I look at Real Salt Lake midfielder David Viana - a player with unquestionable attacking talent, but one who has to show what he's made of. I wouldn't expect to see Garcia starting anytime in the early season, but I do think he'll make meaningful contributions to RSL later in 2013.

A former RSL beat reporter for multiple outlets, Jeremy Horton is a regular contributor to RealSaltLake.com and helps cover the team for ESPN 700 AM