LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review: A.J. DeLaGarza

Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano looks back on the 2013 season for defender A.J. DeLaGarza

Now that the 2013 season is over, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will look back on the season for every player who was on the club’s roster at some point during the season.

VIEW SCHEDULE HERE

The LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review will begin with players who made the least number of appearances for the club in all official competitions over the course of the year, starting with Brian Perk and Bryan Gaul, who did not make any appearances for the first team this year, and concluding with midfielder Marcelo Sarvas who played in a team-best 42 games for LA this year. There will also be an evaluation of head coach and general manager Bruce Arena and his moves at the conclusion of the list.

We will have one or two evaluations per day and focus on what each player did well and what challenges they faced in 2013 as well as a select thought from the player on their performance and an overall assessment of their season from myself.

A.J. DeLaGarza

AGE: 26

POSITION: Defender

APPEARANCES IN ALL OFFICIAL COMPETITIONS FOR THE GALAXY: GP: 35 (28 in MLS Regular Season, five in CONCACAF Champions League and two in MLS Cup Playoffs); GS: 33 (28 in MLS Regular Season and five in CONCACAF Champions League); G: 1 (one in CONCACAF Champions League); A: 0

APPERANCES IN GUINNESS INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP:  GP: 3

HIGHLIGHTS:  A.J. DeLaGarza remained a fixture in the LA Galaxy defense starting LA’s first 28 league matches splitting time between central defense and right back. DeLaGarza began the season as a right back, but quickly returned to central defense, which is where he stayed until the Galaxy returned from the Guinness International Champions Cup in August when he transitioned full time to outside back. DeLaGarza’s start streak ended in September after he suffered a dislocated left elbow against D.C. United on Sept. 14 that caused him to miss LA’s final six league matches. DeLaGarza battled back from his injury to start in LA’s CONCACAF Champions League finale against Isidro Metapán in October and appear in both of the Galaxy’s Western Conference Semifinal Series matches against Real Salt Lake, coming off the bench as a second half substitute in each. DeLaGarza also got on the scoresheet for the first time since May 2010 with a clever finish in LA’s CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal first leg defeat against C.F. Monterrey.

CHALLENGES: DeLaGarza logged heavy minutes, but his performances were inconsistent at times in 2013. While Omar Gonzalez serves as the unquestioned leader in the heart of the LA defense, DeLaGarza struggled to take a greater leadership role in marshalling the defense when paired with Leonardo or Tommy Meyer in Gonzalez’s absence. DeLaGarza’s presence in central defense could not stop the Galaxy’s early season defensive woes as LA conceded nearly two-thirds of their league goals (25 of 38) in matches that he started in central defense. Once DeLaGarza returned to right back, he remained a steady defender, but struggled to have a substantial impact in the offensive end. Just as he was settling into his right back role, a late season injury cut down DeLaGarza. He suffered a gruesome left elbow dislocation on Sept. 14 in the first half of a match against his hometown D.C. United at RFK Stadium. This was the second straight season in which a late season injury limited DeLaGarza’s availability during the stretch run as he was forced to miss LA’s final six league games, though he did return to action in LA’s CONCACAF Champions League Group Stage finale against Isidro Metapán on Oct. 24. However, DeLaGarza will likely want to forget that performance as he started a left back and struggled in an eventual 4-0 Galaxy loss in El Salvador with Metapan getting four first half goals from Nicolas Muñoz.  

HIS THOUGHTS: “I still have some tendencies of being a central defender, “Where if the ball’s in the box for us and it pops out, I’m usually caught in the back, just watching, because as a center back you don’t follow up those plays, but as a right back, you have to get up there and get any loose balls. … I'm getting more comfortable with the ball at my feet. I'm getting my confidence up, which is helping me get more touches with the ball and I'm trying to get forward." – A.J. DeLaGarza speaking in September about his switch from central defender to right back.

OVERVIEW: A.J. DeLaGarza has been one of Bruce Arena’s first choice defenders for the past three years and will continue to be one in 2014.  However, DeLaGarza’s days playing alongside Omar Gonzalez in central defense may be over as he has begun to transition into right back over the final months of the past season. Sean Franklin’s future with the Galaxy is currently up in the air and if he departs, DeLaGarza will likely take the starting right back duties full time. Even if Franklin remains, DeLaGarza could become the first choice right back with Franklin being pushed into the midfield as he was at the start of the season. As he prepares to enter his sixth season in MLS, DeLaGarza’s physical and technical traits are well suited to right back and with the emergence of Kofi Opare, and the presence of Leonardo, the time seems right for the 26-year-old to transition full time from central defense. 

POLL: How would you rate A.J. DeLaGarza’s 2013 season?

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com