Cologne - Nobody saw it coming, but Ulisses Garcia appears to have already made the left-back position his own at new club SV Werder Bremen.
bundesliga.com take a closer look at the Green-Whites’ under-the-radar summer acquisition…
Born to Cape Verdean parents in the Portuguese city of Almada, Ulisses Alexandre Garcia Lopes actually grew up in Switzerland, where he represented FC Onex, Servette FC and Grasshopper Club Zürich youths. He signed professional terms with the latter in 2014, making his Raiffeisen Super League debut for the 27-time Swiss champions in a 3-1 defeat to FC Sion on 18 May that year.
Garcia racked up a further 18 appearances in all competitions in 2014/15, albeit with 16 of those coming in the Swiss fourth tier for the Grasshopper reserves. The 19-year-old’s limited exposure to top-flight football notwithstanding, Bremen had seen enough of the sprightly left-back to bring him to the Weser Stadion on a three-year deal.
In at the deep end
Many observers expected Garcia to kick off his Bremen career with the Under-23s in Germany’s third tier, but head coach Viktor Skripnik had other ideas. Recognizing what the U-19 Switzerland international could bring to the Werder attack in the absence of injured first-choice left-back Santiago Garcia, the Ukrainian tactician had no qualms whatsoever about throwing the Bremen greenhorn straight into the first team.
Garcia made his competitive debut in Werder’s 2-0 extra-time win over Würzburger Kickers in the first round of the DFB Cup, before taking his Bundesliga bow a week later in a 3-0 home defeat to FC Schalke 04. Slowly acclimatizing to the demands of the German top flight, his intrepid wing play yielded his first-ever Bundesliga assist in a 1-1 draw away to Hertha Berlin on Matchday 2 of the new campaign.
“I’ve always said to him, that we want him to put in more crosses,” Anthony Ujah told the press after profiting from a pin-point Garcia delivery in the capital. “He’s always putting great balls into the box in training.” Werder’s new recruit also brings pace to the table (he hit a top speed of 33 kilometres per hour on Matchday 1) and in true wing-back style loves to bomb up and down the flank (no Bremen player has set off on more sprints this season).
Naturally, being 19, there is ample room for improvement. Hertha’s Genki Haraguchi, for example, laid bare 'Uli’s' incipient positional sense and tackling ability on more than one occasion at the Olympiastadion; not that the Bremen hierarchy are in the slightest bit concerned. “The main thing is that he showed a reaction,” Skripnik explained. “If he sorts that out, we’ll have a top left-back on our hands,” added sporting director Thomas Eichin. Potentially bad news, then, for Garcia's waylaid namesake.