TORRANCE, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza understands that he's heading into one of the most important seasons of his professional career and the LA Galaxy center back is ready for the challenge.
For the past week, the 25-year-old defender has trained with the U.S. national team in preparation for the Feb. 29 friendly against Canada at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston. The camp is an immense opportunity for DeLaGarza as it represents a chance for him to make an impression with U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann just a year away from the 2014 World Cup.
“We all have an opportunity to make the World Cup [squad] so everyone is excited about this camp because it’s the year before the World Cup and it’s a big year for the U.S," said DeLaGarza. "[There] are a lot of competitions and a lot of games so guys are going to be needed.”
When the DeLaGarza re-joins the Galaxy for preseason, he’ll be faced likely be faced with a position battle with Meyer, who shined during the latter parts of the season and postseason after DeLaGarza went down with a knee injury. Although battling for a starting spot in the Galaxy back four promises to be a challenge, DeLaGarza feels that he is ready for the battle.
"I think that’s when I’m at my best when I’m vying for a spot and I have to come in every single day and do better than someone else or try to do better than someone else,” DeLaGarza said. “Everyone is playing for a spot, no one’s spot is guaranteed."
Whoever lines up at central defense will have a new goalkeeper as Italian Carlo Cudicini takes over the reins from Josh Saunders, who appears to be on his way out of L.A.
“It’ll be good, it’ll be different,” said DeLaGarza. “I’m used to [Donovan] Ricketts and Saunders back there and it’s going to be good though because he’s obviously a leader and played at the top club in the top league in the world.”
Regardless of who is in the starting lineup, DeLaGarza remains confident that the Galaxy can challenge for a third straight MLS Cup title— no matter how different the team will be.
“I feel like we’re going to be a totally different team,” said DeLaGarza. “ We've signed some good players and we've re-signed some players as well so whoever is out there, we’re going to play to win another championship.”