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DeKALB — When the season for DeKalb County United kicks off Sunday against the Iowa Raptors, Alec Garcia still will be a student at Sycamore High School.
But United coach Tom Romanello said that on a soccer team filled with college-level talent getting ready to start its fourth season of play, Garcia is fitting in and should have an impact for the club.
“His technical ability is quite mature for his age,” Romanello said. “He’s a pacey kid and always working. Those three things alone stand out. Those three things alone are really a good foundation for what he’s going to do here this summer and contribute and get minutes, and then to play and contribute and get minutes at Kishwaukee in the fall.”
The semi-pro team will start its Midwest Premier League season at 3 p.m. Sunday at the NIU soccer stadium against the Raptors. Founded almost five years ago, the club has grown to not only feature the men’s first team, but a reserve team and a women’s under-23 team.
They also have a youth academy with tryouts later this month.
When Garcia tried out, he said he wasn’t sure what to expect.
“I wasn’t really sure if I was going to make the first team or not,” Garcia said. “I knew there were a lot of good players they were recruiting. So I just play as good as I can and bring what I can to the table.”
The team has had two practices before its game Sunday and is still missing players with previous commitments to their college teams.
A scrimmage game late last month was lost due to weather, and Romanello said the team is chomping at the bit to get the season started. Given the nature of the absences and limited practice time, Romanello said he, club president John Hall, sporting director Eric Luzzi and assistant coach PJ Hamilton set some pretty clear expectations for what things are going to look like.
“I think we’re looking pretty well,” Romanello said. “We’ve only had two sessions together and are still waiting on a couple players coming back, being released by schools and things like that. We’re certainly not full strength. But John and Eric and PJ and I sat down at the beginning and said look, it’s going to be a bit of a process at the beginning. We’re doing things different where it’s not only local. It’s gathering guys from different programs, different universities, different levels.”
Garcia said in the end, it comes down to talent, and this team has plenty.
“I believe we can come out on top, especially with the players we have and the talent the players have,” Garcia said. “It will be a good game on Sunday.”
Romanello said players like Aidan Westerberg and Bernie Dominguez have looked good in practices. Westerberg plays for North Central College and had four goals and five assists last year. Dominguez had five goals and five assists for Rock Valley last year, where Romanello has been the head coach since 2019.
“We have some good players, some good, all-conference, all-American players at the junior college level, the NAIA level, and all NCAA levels,” Romanello said. “So as much as we’re missing guys, we have quality players. … There is talent. And when you have talent, it’s just going to take a little bit of time to mesh.”
Garcia, a Daily Chronicle 2021 All-Area First Team selection who helped the Spartans win the Interstate 8 this year, said he’s ready for the year to start.
“I’m kind of nervous a little bit,” Garcia said. “I’m just trying to improve my game so I can compete at a higher level with these guys. They’re all talented players and I’m just glad to be here.”