DeLaGarza's versatility helps back line
With veteran central defender Gregg Berhalter on the mend, the Galaxy were
forced to use Plan B: using Rookie of the Year Omar Gonzalez alongside
Brazilian import Leonardo.
Despite not being able to fully communicate, Gonzalez and Leonardo formed a
strong partnership early on. However, Leonardo hurt his thigh before last
week’s match against Real
In a pinch, Galaxy manager Bruce Arena turned to second-year man A.J.
DeLaGarza—and despite the suddenness of the move, DeLaGarza was more than a
capable fill-in, helping LA win their fourth game of the season.
And while center back might not necessarily be his full-time position, his
versatility has helped out his team once again as the Galaxy beat Real Salt
“I just want to make myself available wherever the team needs me,” he said.
DeLaGarza was a central defender during his college days alongside Omar
Gonzalez at the University
of Maryland. But so far
his professional career has seen him as a wide player, mostly at right back.
His transition from the middle to the right went smoothly, but when
necessity forced him to move back to central defense—even if for just one
“The big criticism coming from Maryland
where I played center back was that I was too little,” said the 5-foot-9,
145-pounder. “I thought I did a good enough job to help our team.”
Missing Leonardo and Berhalter tested the Galaxy’s depth, but the defense
came through in what players considered their toughest game of the season to
date. Berhalter actually dressed for the game, but he had not been training
regularly with the team in the weeks leading up to the match. The decision came
down to Sean Franklin or DeLaGarza.
“You might as well play the two guys who have played probably 50-60 days
together and we did that,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “We didn’t even
hesitate. We thought he would do a good job, and he did.”
Against the Kansas City Wizards this Saturday, though, DeLaGarza could
return to the right side of the field. Berhalter has been back training
regularly with the team and Franklin, who has been playing on the right, is out
with an ankle injury.
“We’re playing on a small field so Gregg’s fitness
probably won’t hurt him as much, as say, on a big field like here,” DeLaGarza
said. “If he plays well, we could do that this week.”