HOUSTON – Behold Boniek Garcia: a rail-thin, lightning-fast, always-smiling Honduran midfielder just a few months into his US adventure. And yet, in the Houston Dynamo's Eastern Conference Semifinal series with Sporting Kansas City, which begins with the first leg on Sunday (3:30 pm ET, NBC) he might just turn out to be the critical X factor.
From day one of his June arrival, Boniek Garcia has fit perfectly in with the Dynamo system. In 18 games, he scored four goals and six assists. But that only begins to show his value to the side.
“[Boniek’s] brought an unorthodox approach to the game where guys have never seen it before,” remarked defender Bobby Boswell. “He’s just an added element. We get to see it every day in practice so it’s a little different than a guy seeing it on the weekend for the first time. He makes things happen and creates some great chances for guys.”
That "unorthodox" style of attack is marked by its creativity, its quickness, and its unpredictability. He has a graceful touch and the ability to slash through pressure, maintaining possession in tight situations. But he also can hold the ball and distribute like a target forward. Plus, his pace allows him to create space for himself, such as when he dribbled past Chicago's Jalil Anibaba last week, opening up more space as he pulled away.
Against a high-pressure team like Kansas City, having a midfielder that can transition the ball from back to front gives Houston a second option to break pressure than to just lob the ball out of pressure.
In addition to his work with the ball at his feet, Garcia put in his fair share defensively. More than willing to drop back and cover, Garcia allows defenders such as Kofi Sarkodie and Boswell the license to get forward against a KC squad that will look to counter.
Put it all together, and Garcia is a rare commodity who could be the difference between two clubs that are so evenly matched.
“[Boniek] really adds a spark for us especially offensively and he’s a guy that doesn’t mind working back and getting behind the ball as well,” said Brad Davis about the right midfielder. “He brings a lot of energy to the field obviously, and loves playing the game. It’s refreshing.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.