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Atlanta United’s Greg Garza traded to FC Cincinnati

Greg Garza celebrates winning the 2018 MLS Cup in Atlanta United's locker room on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)

Atlanta United FC will lose at least one starter from its Major League Soccer Cup-winning roster.

Greg Garza was traded to FC Cincinnati on Tuesday in exchange for $200,000 in General Allocation Money and $250,000 in Targeted Allocation Money.

The deal was announced by FCC head coach Alan Koch during the league’s live broadcast following the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft.

“We’ve obviously seen Greg play a lot. I was in the stadium in Atlanta on Saturday night and he was outstanding in that one individual game,” Koch said. “But it’s more than just scouting a guy in one game, obviously. He’s been fantastic and we’re excited to bring him in. He’ll play a big part of our group next season.”

Koch may have jumped the gun on announcing the trade, though. During an interview with Atlanta sports talk radio station 92.9 The Game on Tuesday, Atlanta United president Darren Eales said he was “really pissed off” that FC Cincinnati announced the trade before Atlanta could acknowledge Garza. Eales added that he “knew we were going to be losing someone” around the expansion draft.

Garza, 27, was a 2017 MLS All-Star and has started for Atlanta United when he has been healthy. He was the club’s starting left wing back throughout the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs. In 37 appearances over two seasons with the Five Stripes, he has scored three goals and tallied eight assists.

“Greg was a consummate professional during his two years with our club and served as a good role model for our younger players while also playing an integral role in our run to MLS Cup,” Atlanta United Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “We want to thank him for his dedication to the club and wish him well throughout the rest of his career.”

During the postseason, in which Garza started every match, Atlanta didn’t allow a goal from open play and posted three clean sheets.

Garza started in 10 of Atlanta’s first 12 games this season, but re-injured his right shoulder while attempting a sliding tackle during a May 20 match against the New York Red Bulls. Before that match, Garza had revealed that he had been playing with a torn labrum. Following the Red Bulls’ match, he had surgery on the shoulder, which forced him to miss 21 games.

During Garza’s absence, Atlanta used a host of players to fill in for him, including Chris McCann, Sal Zizzo, Mikey Ambrose, Jose Hernandez and homegrown 16-year-old George Bello. The club declined the option on Zizzo’s contract on Sunday, but picked up Ambrose’s option. McCann, Hernandez and Bello remain with the club under their current deals.

Ambrose was the club’s first option to start at left back when Garza was injured, but he too later suffered a knee injury and surgery to repair it sidelined him for the rest of the season. Hernandez made one appearance with the first team, but mostly played for Atlanta’s USL side, ATL UTD 2. Bello started twice and made another appearance with the Five Stripes. McCann played in 22 games this season.

Rumors about Garza being traded started swirling late Saturday night, not long after Atlanta lifted the MLS Cup. Those rumors connected Garza to the Vancouver Whitecaps, but a deal never came to fruition during Sunday’s four-hour trade window.

Garza came to Atlanta prior to the start of the 2017 season, initially on loan from Liga MX side Tijuana. The Five Stripes bought him outright before the 2018 season began and signed him to a multi-year contract. He was one of Atlanta’s lowest paid regular starters, making an annual salary of $175,008, according to figures released by the MLS Players Association earlier this year.

In January, Garza bought a four-bedroom house in Cobb County, less than 10 miles from the Atlanta United’s training grounds, according to public property records.

Garza began his professional career in Sao Paulo’s youth academy in Brazil. He has played for clubs in Portugal, Mexico and the U.S. The native Texan also has 10 caps with the U.S. men’s national team.

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