You’re not likely to see this one come up in any sports trivia competitions anytime soon, but the answer to the question, “Who was the first Earthquakes player to reach Simon Dawkins following his table-topping game-winner against Real Salt Lake?” …
… Sam Garza.
Yes, that was the Quakes rookie who was first on the scene to mob Dawkins after his stoppage-time header into the far corner that lifted San Jose atop the MLS Western Conference standings for the first time since rejoining the league prior to the 2008 season.
Garza had just come into the game 10 minutes prior, in place of Rafael Baca on the right wing, to mark his professional debut.
Aside from those who took in either one of San Jose’s two MLS Reserve League contests to date, throughout which Garza used his flank effectively for the full 180 minutes and provided one assist, it was the first look Quakes fans got at the speedy youngster.
The 22-year-old Texas native and UC Santa Barbara product who began his college days at the University of Denver in the fall of 2008, was the Quakes’ top selection at the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, being chosen with the No. 6 overall pick.
Following Saturday night’s thriller against RSL, Garza could hardly contain himself in the locker room.
“I was so excited (when Coach Yallop called me over to enter the game). It was almost like Draft Day again, and I was getting called up to the podium. It was that kind of feeling. I thought I brought pretty good energy. We never gave up. We got the goal by Simon, which was a brilliant goal by him, and then Wondo is always going to score. It was a fantastic debut. It couldn’t have been any better.
“It was awesome,” added Garza about the late drama to achieve the result. “We needed a little bit of a spark. I came on, and I just needed to run at players, and I got to. I think that’s what I’m good at. It was a fantastic display by our guys. We never gave up, and that’s kind of the big thing about our team. We’re going to keep fighting, no matter what. Obviously, (RSL) got another red card and went down another guy, which helped us a little bit, but it was a great win.”
Fellow winger Shea Salinas and center back Victor Bernardez are still out for weeks and captain Ramiro Corrales and striker Alan Gordon appear down for the short term as the Quakes face their first such stretch of three games in eight days. Garza thus will be among a handful of players that may not have been used very much so far through seven weeks, but who head coach Frank Yallop will rely on as the popular notion of San Jose being a deep team in 2012 gets further put to the test.
Garza and the first-place Quakes (5-1-1, 16 pts.) are on the road to take on the Philadelphia Union (2-3-1, 7 pts.) at PPL Park in Chester, Pa., this Saturday night (4 p.m. PT / Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 1590 KLIV, 1370 KZSF). San Jose will then return home for a short week prior to welcoming D.C. United inside Buck Shaw Stadium on Police & Fire Night to kick off Dollar Dog Wednesdays on May 2 at 7:30 p.m.