CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane may get the notoriety for his often uncanny goal-scoring and Landon Donovan deserves his share of attention for his continued pursuit of the MLS goal scoring record, but not everyone has his time in the spotlight.
It’s those players doing the dirty work who often can make a difference.
The Galaxy have three of them.
Topping the list is A.J. DeLaGarza, a defender who can play anywhere on the back line and is generously listed at 5 feet 9 and 150 pounds. Former Galaxy standout Gregg Berhalter once said of the 26-year-old, “He keeps getting knocked down and keeps getting back up.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena agreed with that assessment of the former second-round draft pick out of the University of Maryland in 2009.
“That’s a very fair way to describe his soccer career,” Arena said. “He never gets the credit he deserves. He’s always there. He’s dealt with some injuries in the early going of the season and has come back strong.”
DeLaGarza, arguably the Galaxy’s most intuitive defender, traces his tenacity to his childhood.
“I think I’ve always been the littlest guy on the field,” he said. “Growing up I was the littlest, the smallest, but I was quick. I did get knocked down, but I kept going. It’s something I grew up doing.”
The second member of the Galaxy’s unsung trio is defender Dan Gargan, who signed as a free agent in early March. The nine-year veteran, just named to MLSsoccer.com’s team of the week, has played for six teams, including the Galaxy, and has started the last four games at right back.
DeLaGarza, for one, has been impressed with the 31-year-old’s solid play.
“When his number was called he was ready to take advantage of it,” DeLaGarza said. “That’s what you try and teach the young guys. Be ready when it’s your turn.”
Gargan said he’s feeling close to 100 percent after battling nagging groin and quad injuries during the preseason.
“I’m not there yet,” he cautioned, “but it feels good to get into kind of a rhythm.”
Added Arena, “Dan’s a real pro. He’s done well for us.”
The final member of this threesome is midfielder Baggio Husidic, a native of Velika Kladusa in the former Yugoslavia. Husidic, whose real first name is Adis but was given the nickname “Baggio” by his father in honor of the former Italian striker, signed on a free transfer from Swedish side Hammarby on Nov. 14, 2013.
The former second-round draft pick of the Chicago Fire quickly has put his stamp on the midfield.
“He’s been very good,” Arena said. “Baggio does all the things that players on the field appreciate. Probably fans and press and what have you don’t recognize them, but he’s a very competent player and a guy that knows how to fit into our team and make players around him better.”
Husidic, who has started the last six matches, said he’s finally making the adjustment to MLS.
“The last several games my comfort level has gone up,” he said. “I have the respect of the players. It’s a good confidence boost for me.
“I’ve been working hard, and it’s showing.”