CARSON, Calif. – Veteran defender A.J. DeLaGarza rejoined the LA Galaxy from international duty on Tuesday ahead of the club’s Western Conference Championship first leg clash with Seattle Sounders FC this weekend at StubHub Center.
DeLaGarza returns to the Galaxy after starting in a pair of matches for Guam in the 2015 EAFF East Asian Cup qualifying. The 25-year-old defender appeared in the Matao’s 2-1 win over Chinese Taipei on Nov. 14 and their 5-1 defeat to North Korea on Nov. 16 in Taiwan.
With defeat to North Korea giving the 2010 World Cup participants the edge in qualification and the Galaxy playing in a critically important match against the Sounders on Sunday, DeLaGarza felt it was vital that he returned to Southern California early.
“I know how important this weekend is. My priority is here, but it was good to play with Guam,” said DeLaGarza who returned to Los Angeles on Monday. “I feel fine from the travel. The time difference only felt like a couple of hours so I feel good and ready to go.
“It’s a big difference having six days to prepare rather than just two days. We planned on me playing two games [with Guam] and then coming back.”
But given the immense travel across the Pacific, DeLaGarza was admittedly disappointed with Guam’s showing in their decisive match against North Korea.
“We had chances early on and we didn’t put our chances away,” DeLaGarza said. “We were in the game until the 70th minute and then they countered on us repeatedly and scored every time. It was unfortunate but those are the lessons that guys have to learn from games like that.”
Despite the disappointing result, the early return of DeLaGarza along with captain Robbie Keane from international duty is a major boost for the Galaxy in their first leg against the Sounders.
“I think that we'll find out on Sunday if it was good enough,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena noted. “It’s less wear and tear on the players and it gives us a better chance of having them ready to play.”
With Leonardo still recovering from a right hamstring strain, DeLaGarza remains an option to start either in central defense alongside Omar Gonzalez or at right back with third-year defender Tommy Meyer playing in the center.
But no matter where he is slotted along the back four, DeLaGarza is primed and ready to contribute against the Sounders.
“We’ll see what happens later in the week,” DeLaGarza said. “Guys will continue to get healthy and before Bruce has to make up a starting lineup.”