Galaxy News

Los Angeles Galaxy at 20: A.J. DeLaGarza

By Jo-Ryan Salazar
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Dec 5, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza (right) signs an autograph for soccer fan Jesse Lopez on during practice in preparation for the 2014 MLS Cup at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This is Part 1 in a series of articles on the players that make up the 2015 Los Angeles Galaxy as their enter their 20th year of existence. Exclusively on The View From Avalon, part of the FanSided Network.

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The career of a soccer player involves a series of ups and downs, of highs and lows, of tragedy and heartbreak turned to ecstasy and euphoria. For Los Angeles Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza, the long road he has journeyed through involved both sides of life’s mysterious spectrum of emotions and has made him complete, as an athlete and as a man.

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  • Adolph Joseph DeLaGarza was born on Nov. 4, 1987 in Bryans Road, Maryland, a town located in Charles County, Maryland, not too far from Washington, D.C. His father was part Mexican, part Guamanian, while his mother was a Native American. Soccer was ingrained in his blood from an early age, and at the age of 12, he played for D.C. United’s Under-12 team at the Danone Cup in France.

    As a youth soccer phenom, DeLaGarza led Baltimore Casa Mia’s Boys to two USYSA National Championships and starred for the Chargers of Henry E. Lackey High School in nearby Indian Head. DeLaGarza was a sensation for the Maryland Terrapins, leading that program to two national championships in 2005 and 2008 with current Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez.

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    DeLaGarza was picked in the second round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by the Los Angeles Galaxy as the 19th overall selection. After current D.C. United defender Sean Franklin went down with an injury midseason, DeLaGarza filled in and clocked 1,754 minutes in his rookie year. As a player, his lowlight came on Oct. 1, 2012, when he went down due to a massive injury against the Colorado Rapids.

    DeLaGarza’s versatility and speed allows him to play as either a right back or a center-back alongside Gonzalez and combined, the two of them have been a constant force in Bruce Arena’s Galaxy backline, leading the way to MLS Cup championships in 2011, 2012 and 2014 as well as MLS Supporter Shields in 2010 and 2011. As of right now, DeLaGarza has 156 appearances for the Galaxy to go with two goals. Internationally, DeLaGarza plays for the Guam national team and has made two national team appearances thus far for Matao.

    But despite all the success and all the glory, the desire to become a father became nothing more than fleeting for A.J. DeLaGarza. His only son, Luca Wyatt DeLaGarza, was born on Sept. 1, 2014 but passed away days later due to hypoplastic left heart syndrome. In response, A.J. and his wife Megan, in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, created a fundraising campaign, Luca Knows Heart, that helps spread the message about this disease. The success of this campaign gave DeLaGarza the 2014 MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian Of The Year Award.

    The inspiration DeLaGarza received from the league regarding his struggles was immense that it impacted his play in the MLS Cup final against the New England Revolution. Despite giving up a late equalizer to Chris Tierney, DeLaGarza played a solid 120 minutes en route to the Galaxy’s fifth MLS Cup Championship. As the final whistle blew, DeLaGarza broke down, convinced that his son was driving him to make history and his benediction to the one he lost completed the transformation from heartbreak and tragedy to sheer joy and ecstasy.

    The highs and the lows. To be a soccer player in America that experiences and feels both sides of the emotional spectrum is a privilege, and for A.J. DeLaGarza, the journey of there and back again is set to come full circle many more times as he continues his career as a part of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

    Next: MLS Announces 2014 Club And Executive Award Winners

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