Such is the pivotal importance of the attacking midfielder that down through the years the greats become legends of the game: Charlton, Maradona, Zidaine.
But who would be an attacking midfielder? We see it time and time again, when midfielders are off their game your team look as if it’s playing like puddings. With the midfield not working, the defense suffers long spells of scrambling away barrages of incoming balls. With the midfield not working, strikers find themselves stranded on the desert island of offside exchanging hairy eyeballs with opposition goalkeepers.
Witness San Jose Earthquakes attacking midfielder Matías Pérez García in last week’s blizzard game against the New England Revolution. In that particular game García struggled throughout. Don’t blame it on the snow, it snows in Argentina, and besides in his time Garcia was played pretty much everywhere in the world. With the midfielder clearly off his game, the rest of the team looked in disarray. On the other hand, when García is on his game the Quakes look like an entirely sleeker, more dangerous animal.
Following the San Jose Earthquakes preseason victory over the LA Galaxy, when asked in the postgame press conference about the importance to the new team of Matias Perez Garcia’s forward motion, Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear became visibly animated.
"He delivers a great ball. His overall play, I've been really happy with Matias. I thought tonight on the ball, the guy picks the right pass and he's a really intelligent player. His set piece delivery is up there with the best of them."
At age 30 Garcia has arrived at that perfect point, a blend of experience, battle hardened, but still young enough to mix it up with the young bucks.
However, not every attacking midfielder develops to this vital stage of his career in the glare of international limelight, not every talented attacking midfielder has to be at the rare level of performance of Frank Ribery or Kaka to be of immense value to their club.
So what has been Garcia’s journey, what has led him to read the game so accurately, to be able to drop a ball literally like a cat among the pigeons when sending balls into the penalty area?
Here in USA we often know little beyond a player’s college or (maybe) the country they last played in before coming to MLS.
Matias Perez Garcia didn’t exactly set the soccer world on fire when he debuted for Argentinian Primera División team Club Atlético Lanús. Between 2002 and 2006 he made just 4 appearances for the club and scored no goals. In 2007 he was signed by Uruguayan club C.A. Cerro and his game took off as he scored 12 goals in 39 games. Between 2007 and 2012 he bounced around from Uruguayan club C.A. Cerro, to 3rd tier Argentinian club Atlanta, dropping on loan to 4th tier French team Chamois, then to 2nd division Argentinian team All Boys, until 2011 saw him signed to Chilean club Universidad de Chile of the Primera División de Chile, who almost immediately loaned him back to All Boys.
Dang, it makes the head spin just tracking that career path; no wonder he knows how to weave through defenses with the ball.
It wasn’t until 2012 when Garcia moved to Argentine Primera División club Tigres that his career sparked. Garcia hit 13 goals in 63 games over the 2 years he played for Tigres. This was the beginning of his blossoming as a player to the level of experience that breeds creativity.
His impact at the Quakes has been immediate, scoring on his debut last year before suffering a disruptive knee injury. This year so far it’s (mostly) as if the sum of the experience gleaned from that crazed maze of a career is suddenly at his disposal.
Garcia is at that perfect age where, barring injury, he could easily play at a high level in this crucial position for the next 6 or 7 years. Add to this a player with a pivotal role to play in the rebuilding of a team with a brand new stadium and it’s no wonder Garcia could be put forward (sic) as a candidate to save the Earthquakes.