Former Western Nebraska Community College men’s soccer player Manolo Garcia, the soccer operations coordinator of Atlanta United of the MLS, became part of history for the professional Atlanta soccer program recently.
Atlanta captured the MLS cup with a 2-0 win over the Portland Timber earlier in December and the city of Atlanta celebrated for the first time in 23 years since the Atlanta Braves won a championship for the city.
Garcia said this win feels special to him and the organization.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have won the MLS Cup and it’s the result of a lot of hard work on behalf of the players, coaching staff, and everyone involved with the organization,” Garcia said. “However, like every successful team, we have already begun eying up next year. You can’t get complacent because you just won a championship. Now it’s time to prepare to win another one.”
The role Garcia has with the Atlanta United is different than what he is used to doing and that is playing.
“I didn’t help recruit any players as I got to the organization once our roster was completed,” he said. “However, as part of the front office for our soccer operations department, we are responsible for player relocation. I helped about five international players with searching for housing, getting their drivers licenses, getting their immigration documentation sorted, etc.”
He still got to travel and watch United win the title and that, he said, is rewarding in itself.
“It’s definitely a different feeling [being in the front office], but it is also extremely rewarding,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that goes in behind the scenes to get to this point. I’m extremely proud of my contribution, but at the end of the day, the players and coaching staff got the job done in a fantastic way. Seeing the joy of the players, coaches, and their families after the game was definitely one of the most gratifying things I’ve been apart of in my young career.
Garcia played for the Cougars in 2010 and 2011. After WNCC, he went on to play soccer at Belmont Abbey College just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. He then went to West Virginia University for his Masters in Sports Management. Last year he was in the front office at Clemson University helping the women’s soccer program.
Once Garcia finished his playing days, he still stayed involved in soccer in the states. That led him to the front office staff of United.
Garcia said his role is working with the players.
“We are in charge of facilitating player performance and experience and ensuring coaches can easily focus on preparing the team to perform at the best of their abilities,” he said. “I helped both our first and second teams with travel logistics, player relocation, game day operations, etc.”
In fact, wherever Garcia has ended up he has brought success. At West Virginia he helped the women’s soccer team win a Big 12 Regular Season title in 2014, Clemson women with an ACC title in 2016, and now a MLS Cup championship for Atlanta United this year.
Garcia said since he was a youngster playing soccer, he has been involved in about 7-10 championships as a kid plus several in his professional career.
“I’ve been very lucky to work for great organizations along with some amazing people,” he said. “I work hard on a daily basis to be an asset and make a positive impact. Do I strive for success? Absolutely, success is a collective effort in which I merely contribute.”
As for next year, Garcia said the staff is already working on getting a team together for next year.
“We are already getting ready for next season. We have our technical staff at looking at a new coaching staff as well as players. I take care of the next step,” he said. “Once the players get to Atlanta, my position entails taking care of their relocation. I’ll also begin to work on travel logistics for next season.”
Garcia still is learning and some day would love to be a general manager of a major league soccer team.
“It’s been a long journey from my time at Western Nebraska to where I am today,” he said. “However, the strange thing is that the closer people might think I am to my ultimate goal, the further I feel I am. My aspirations keep growing, and with that so does the work needed to get to the top. My ultimate goal is to one day become a GM or Vice President of Soccer Operations at an MLS Club.”
With everything Garcia has went through and accomplished, Garcia said he got to where he is today by dreaming and making it happen.
“To all the student-athletes at Western Nebraska, don’t be afraid of dreaming,” he said. “Dream big and use everything you learn from sports to achieve those goals. When you make your decision to transfer, make sure that school that gives you the best chance at succeeding on and off the field.”