There’s an unspoken rhythm when Greg Garza and Joseph-Claude Gyau play together.
It’s something that only came in glimpses last season – Gyau joined the team in August when Garza was recovering from a calf injury – but there was enough time to see how their partnership can spark creativity, excitement and quality down the FC Cincinnati left flank.
“It’s an understanding,” Gyau said of the duo. “It just flows and comes natural.”
And it also came from their beginnings together at IMG Academy.
Back when both were teenagers and playing in the U.S. Boys National Team system, they spent time together at IMG in the residency program.
“I was graduating from residency and already played my (Under) 17 World Cup and he was just coming in,” Garza said of Gyau. “I was one of seven, eight guys that stayed extra to try and graduate early because I knew I was going to Portugal.”
In 2010, Garza went to Portugal and began a playing career that saw the left back play there, Mexico and eventually in MLS in 2017. He joined FCC ahead of the 2019 season.
As for Gyau, he left IMG to also pursue a European career, but went to Germany. He remained there until he signed with Cincinnati last August.
While they were in separate countries, their bond remained.
Both players were part of the national team pool and played for the U-20 and U-23 National Teams. And when they both had their first cap – Sept. 3, 2014, in a 1-0 win in the Czech Republic – they made their senior team debuts together.
Gyau and Garza with Emerson Hyndman in 2015 with the USMNT. Photo from @USMNT, Twitter.
“The soccer world is a small place,” Gyau said. “Every time you meet somebody, you end up running back into them down the line.”
Now, they’re using their relationship that dates back 14 years ago to play together every week with FC Cincinnati.
Their reunion comes at the perfect time. Both players want a full, healthy season with FCC, of course, but they’re also are on the cusp of rejoining the USMNT.
They were called into the country’s 40-man provisional roster for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup, but neither played in the tournament. (Garza got hurt in mid-May and Gyau played in a June friendly against Jamaica but didn’t make the final Gold Cup roster.)
For the past two weeks, they spent time together laughing about how much had changed at IMG Academy. The Legacy Hotel wasn’t there, and neither were the playing fields FCC used in practices and games.
“What is all this? This wasn’t here when we were here,” Gyau said to Garza when they arrived at the facility on Feb. 10.
There’s a beauty to watching a young career start taking off. But there’s also beauty in seeing a reunion or start of a new chapter in a player’s career. In 2020, expect to see this duo’s new chapter emerge together like it did 14 years ago in South Florida.
“To see this transformation, that’s probably the most beautiful thing about soccer,” Garza said. “You grow up together, you’re kids together, you’re teenagers together and then there’s a moment when you become a man together.”