CARSON, Calif. –The LA Galaxy picked up a 4-1 victory over D.C. United on Wednesday night at StubHub Center, but long after the result is forgotten, the memory of the club’s support of defender A.J. DeLaGarza will live on.
DeLaGarza’s son will be born on Thursday morning with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is too underdeveloped to provide sufficient blood flow for the body. Since learning of the diagnosis in late April, DeLaGarza and his wife Megan have dealt with the stress and fear of their son’s condition, but on Wednesday night, they were awash in love and support from the entire Galaxy family.
To honor Luca, the Galaxy donned special “Luca Knows Heart” shirts during warm-ups and team introductions to show their support for the Galaxy defender’s son. The shirts were also sold during the match by the Galaxy Foundation to support Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and were a common sight throughout StubHub Center.
“It was emotional,” DeLaGarza, who tallied an assist in the match, said. “It was a good touch and class from not only this team and my teammates, but the league for allowing us to do it and Marcelo [Sarvas] and [Juninho] for thinking of the idea.”
During the celebrations of each of LA’s four goals on the evening, players rushed to DeLaGarza to display their support for the defender amid the most trying time in his young life.
The most touching of those celebrations came in the 25th minute when DeLaGarza’s longtime collegiate and professional teammate Omar Gonzalez lifted his jersey and rushed to his teammate to display his “Luca Knows Heart” shirt after scoring the eventual game-winner.
“[Thursday is] a very important day for him and we’re all going to be here for him,” Gonzalez said. ”I’m happy to get the win for him tonight so he can focus on what he has to focus on tomorrow.”
For DeLaGarza, who has tried his best to block out the stress created by Luca’s condition whenever he steps onto the field, the gestures shown by all of his teammates, club and fans were deeply emotional.
“When I step on the field, everything is forgotten off the field just for 90 minutes,” said DeLaGarza. “Today, obviously I got reminded when people scored goals and came up to me, which was a nice touch and a nice gesture for everyone that has a part in it.”
Those gestures will stay with the DeLaGarzas when they face their greatest challenge when Luca is finally born on Aug. 28 at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Los Angeles and then transferred to the heart center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as he awaits the procedures to correct his ailment.
Despite all the tears and worry that A.J. and his wife Megan will experience over the next several days, weeks and months, regarding Luca’s condition, the expectant father cannot help but smile about the idea of finally seeing his son for the very first time.
“It’s crazy. It’s going to be even crazier [Thursday] when he comes out,” said DeLaGarza. “I can’t really explain it to you, having my first kid. I’m going to have my first kid, and I don’t even know what to expect.”