AJ DeLaGarza

174th ranked Guam shock India in World Cup qualifying with help of two MLSers

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Guam beat India 2-1 on Tuesday as the 174th ranked nation in world soccer caused a huge upset in a qualifier for the 2018 World Cup.

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The tiny Pacific Island nation governed by the United States of America has long been known for its love of the NFL and Major League Baseball but perhaps soccer will now be the up and coming sports among its 165,000 citizens. To put that into context, India has 1.25 billion citizens.

Talk about David vs. Goliath…

Current LA Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza lined up for Guam and alongside him was former D.C. United and San Jose Earthquakes defender Brandon McDonald who scored the opening goal of the upset in Hagatna in front of 3,277 fans. A handful of other players from the NASL, USL and across collegiate soccer in the U.S. were also involved for Guam.

Guam is ranked 33 places below India but have now won both of its opening World Cup qualifiers after beating Turkmenistan 1-0 last Thursday.

Those results leave them top of Group D in the second round of qualifying with six games to go in this round. If they qualify for the third round, then 12 teams are split into two groups and the top two teams from each will qualify automatically for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The two third-placed teams will play in a play-off to see who will represent the AFC in the inter-confederation playoffs.

Guam has a long way to go as the likes of South Korea, Japan, Australia and Iran stand between them and qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

That said, for a nation which has the same population as Springfield, Missouri and only joined FIFA in 1996 it is quite the achievement.

 

Galaxy’s DeLaGarza set to return Sunday against San Jose

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Ten days after the passing for his newborn son, AJ DeLaGarza will return to the field. According to today’s report on Major League Soccer’s website, the LA Galaxy defender will be available for the team’s game on Sunday in Santa Clara, Calif., against the San Jose Earthquakes.

DeLaGarza has missed the team’s last four games after the birth and passing of his son Luca, who was born with the congenital heart condition Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. After six days on life support, Luca passed away in preparation for surgery on Sept. 4.

According to the league’s website, AJ and his wife, Megan, have spent the past week in their native Maryland, where they put Luca to rest and grieved with family. The child was the couple’s first.

DeLaGarza, a highly respected sixth-year player, has made 22 league appearances this season (21 starts). Since coming out of Maryland in 2009, the Guam international has made 149 appearances for the Galaxy, scoring two goals while winning two MLS Cups.

Without DeLaGarza, the Galaxy went 3-0-1, though over the last two games, Bruce Arena’s team has been forced to utilize a three-man defense, with injuries at fullback preventing LA from playing its normal 4-4-2 formation.

With the return of one of its core pieces, the defense can return to its normal alignment as the Galaxy try to track down first place Seattle in the Western Conference.

Despite blowout win, Galaxy talk tragedy as DeLaGarzas mourn son

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The Los Angeles Galaxy poured forward, scoring goal after goal in a 6-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Friday night.

But the conversation in the locker room revolved around defender AJ DeLaGarza, whose week-old son Luca passed away Thursday from a congenital heart defect.

The Galaxy held a moment of silence and wore black armbands in a tribute to Luca and his parents, AJ and Megan DeLaGarza.

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AJ DeLaGarza had spoken openly about the condition well before his son was born, and his team had been positive with “Luca knows heart” tee-shirts and mottos spreading around Twitter.

For his part, the 26-year-old defender was active on Twitter for his son’s too-brief life, posting photos of the newborn, a book he had read the child and inspirational messages from around the country.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“We play a sport for a living that we tend to think it is very important, and people get carried away, I think, with the importance of it,” said Landon Donovan, who converted two penalty kicks and assisted two more goals. “We try to keep it all in perspective, and life is more important. And we’re just heartbroken for a teammate and for our friend Megan and their family. We do our job and get on with it, but that it doesn’t change what happened yesterday.

“So that’s going to be a part of our season going forward. It doesn’t mean that after tonight we forget about it. It’s still a piece of all of us that we feel is lost, and it’s a sad night.”

Said head coach Bruce Arena: “It was emotional, and [A.J. is] a person that we all care about, he’s such a good person, he and his wife. … We feel his pain and we just want to be as supportive as we can, and certainly our thoughts were with them tonight. It certainly was a game we wanted to win for him, no question about it.”

Our hearts and thoughts are with the DeLaGarzas, who are going through a time that too many other people understand. Godspeed, Luca.