CARSON, Calif. – One of the larger predicaments facing the LA Galaxy this preseason has been deciding just who would get the start alongside Omar Gonzalez in central defense. Ahead of the season opener against the Chicago Fire, it seems that two options—Leonardo and A.J. DeLaGarza have risen to the top of the heap.
MLS Cup starter Tommy Meyer has been sidelined with a nagging left hamstring injury leaving Leonardo and DeLaGarza to earn minutes in central defense alongside the U.S. national team defender. Both have appeared solid, but Leonardo has impressed particularly after missing much of the last two seasons due to the after effects of knee surgery.
However, it is worth nothing that the last time all three were available for the preseason game –LA’s victory over LIGA MX’s Club Tijuana—it was Leonardo who got the start alongside the Brazilian.
When asked if it would be Leonardo starting against the Fire following Friday’s training session, Bruce Arena quickly reiterated that DeLaGarza is another likely option.
“Or A.J.,” the Galaxy boss sharply noted. “Omar and A.J. typically play together in the center, and they're very experienced players, probably been together the last seven, eight years [including time at the University of Maryland]. I think Leo, whenever he's come in and played with Omar or A.J., has done quite well.”
DeLaGarza’s partnership with Gonzalez, which has lasted since their days at the University of Maryland, is well documented, but Leonardo has had his own success when teaming up with Gonzalez. The pair made a pair of brief preseason appearances together against Tijuana and South Korean side Gangwon FC. Leonardo and Gonzalez also combined 12 times during the 2010 and 2011 seasons with the Galaxy going 6-2-4 in that time.
If Leonardo is the option on Sunday, however, Gonzalez believes that he has complete faith in Leonardo—especially after both recovered from major knee injuries in the past year.
“Leonardo – man, that's another story similar to mine, maybe a little worse than mine,” said Gonzalez. “Two years to come back, and what a story that is. He's just been playing really well lately, he's been showing that he's fit, he's ready to step on the field, and everyone's more than happy to have him out there.
“I've only been paired up with him [during] a couple of [preseason] games here and there, but it was just the way it was before he got hurt,” said Gonzalez. “[Leonardo’s addition] adds a lot more depth, it gives you the opportunity to maybe rotate more guys, because everybody's a solid defender, everybody has quality. You can move A.J. to right back or keep him as center back. You just have a lot more options.”