CARSON, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza is already considered among the top tier defenders in MLS and now he’s looking to bring his skills to the international game.
Last week, DeLaGarza committed to Guam after repeated overtures from the U.S. territory in the Western Pacific Ocean. DeLaGarza has two caps for the U.S. National team – both in friendlies in 2012—but is eligible to play for the Matao through his father’s side of the family.
After being placed on a preliminary roster for the East Asia Cup last November, DeLaGarza is excited to start his international career with Guam.
“It’s an opportunity for myself to play internationally and help a country with what they’re doing and progressing internationally. Playing in the Asian Football Confederation against Japan, South Korea and China is definitely going to be a challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
DeLaGarza admits that Guam head coach Gary White has been pushing for the last year to get the two-time MLS Cup champion to commit to the Matao, but scheduling has prevented him from suiting up. The Galaxy defender was also called up to the U.S. National Team for their annual January camp earlier this year, but did not appear in their match against Canada.
Although he has not been called into the U.S. squad since, DeLaGarza is not closing the door on the U.S. National Team.
“I did talk to Jurgen and even after this year, I won’t be cup-tied so if something does happen then who knows?” said DeLaGarza, who will join New England Revolution midfielder Ryan Guy as MLS players that play for Guam. “But right now, I’m committed to Guam and I’ll help them.”
This season, DeLaGarza has started in all 25 of the Galaxy’s league matches predominantly playing in central defense, though he has started their last two matches at right back.
Guam holds a special place in DeLaGarza’s heart as many members of his father’s family still lives on the Pacific island and the Galaxy defender has a tattoo of the island on his right arm. Excitement is high in Guam following DeLaGarza’s statement of intent, but he admits that he’s simply going there to be another piece of the puzzle for the nation’s aspirations.
“I’m sure the expectations are high, but I’m not going to be the savior of a national team. I just hope to go there and make a difference,” said DeLaGarza. “I want to inspire kids to want to play soccer and want to play for Guam.”
When DeLaGarza actually suits up for the Matao still remains to be seen. Guam’s next competitive matches will take place during their participation in the second annual Philippine Peace Cup in mid-October. However, with the Galaxy likely to be in the thick of a playoff race at that time, it is extremely unlikely that DeLaGarza will join up with his new national team until after the season is complete.
Despite the uncertainty around when he may be able to make his international debut with Guam, DeLaGarza is excited for his new adventure.
“I know that everyone is excited to have me over there, but when the time comes and the time is right, I’ll make an appearance for them,” said DeLaGarza.
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com