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Villanova alums to clash in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final

Dynamo defender Kevin Garcia, Union head coach Jim Curtin among the Villanova ties in tonight’s Open Cup final

MLS: Houston Dynamo at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Whichever team wins the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tonight in Houston, Villanova’s soccer program will have reason to celebrate.

That’s because Houston Dynamo defender Kevin Garcia, Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin, technical coordinator Kyle McCarthy and assistant coach B.J. Callaghan have all either played or coached at Villanova.

Garcia, a 28-year-old defender from New York, crossed paths with all three Union staffers during his time in Villanova as a teammate of McCarthy and as a player during Callaghan’s tenure as assistant coach and Curtin’s one year as a volunteer assistant in 2010.

“I’m very close with the Villanova alumni network, I’m very close with the team and the coaching staff there,” Garcia said in a phone interview earlier this week. “I had a very good experience and have nothing but good things to say about (Curtin and Callaghan). They helped me a lot along the way.”

Garcia’s path to MLS has been anything but typical. Drafted 41st overall by the New England Revolution in the 2012 SuperDraft, Garcia ended up going to Sweden for three years and was in the Republic of Ireland for a spell before landing with Rio Grande Valley FC Toros, the Dynamo’s USL affiliate, in 2016. He signed a first team deal in September 2016 and has made 13 appearances in MLS since, 10 of those this season.

A left back and center back, Garcia has made three appearances this season during the Dynamo’s first ever run to the U.S. Open Cup final.

“It’s just been a humbling experience, it’s been a grind,” Garcia said of his journey. “It’s made me appreciate this moment more than if I would have just been on an MLS team right out of college. I know everything I’ve had to work for to get here.”

Garcia is coming off his sixth start of the season in a scoreless draw at Orlando and made an appearance off the bench in a 4-1 win over Portland a week earlier. He was a late sub in the Open Cup semifinal at LAFC and ended up playing 32 minutes in a game that went to penalties.

Should the Dynamo win, Garcia won’t be the first Villanova alum to hoist the trophy. Curtin, who was the first Wildcat drafted into MLS when he was selected 21st overall in the 2001 SuperDraft, did that as a player in 2003 and 2006 with the Chicago Fire. He’s made it back to the final as a coach twice, losing to the Seattle Sounders in extra time in 2014 and on penalties to Sporting Kansas City in 2015.

Garcia hopes to make it three losses for the Villanova Hall of Fame inductee.

“Come Wednesday we’re not friends until after the game,” Garcia said. “We’re going to give everything we’ve got to make sure the cup stays in Houston.”