BRIAN SCIARETTA - Friday, January 21, 2011
With the US national team kicking off their2011 schedule tomorrow night against Chile, LA Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza hopes to impress and be part of Bob Bradley's plans moving forward.
Like many other players on this US roster, DeLaGarza will be looking to earn his first international cap and is excited for the chance to play for his country.
"Obviously it's a big accomplishment to put on the jersey," DeLaGarza told YA. "I am going to keep on doing what I've been doing the last two years. I am going to take what I've learned from Bruce [Arena] and the other players on the Galaxy and show what I can do out here for the coaches."
DeLaGarza, 23, is preparing to enter his third season with the Galaxy after being drafted as the 19th overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft after leading the University of Maryland to national championships in both 2005 and 2008.
DeLaGarza's ability to play across the backline has been a strength for him as a player and he's prepared to play wherever Bradley asks.
"Wherever I play, whether it's left, middle or right, I got to step up," DeLaGarza said emphatically. "I am putting on a jersey for my national team. You have to do whatever you have to do to fight to win the game."
DeLaGarza's strong play in his first two seasons has lead to some speculation as to when or if he may be interested in making a move from MLS and into the European leagues. The Bryans Road, Maryland native is quick to downplay that talk but hinted that a move in his future is possible.
"Right now I am just focused on the Galaxy," DeLaGarza said bluntly. "I'm on my third year here now. I love it here. I just got married. My wife is having a hard enough time coming from Maryland to LA. I don't know how she'll feel about going across the seas and leaving her family."
"But obviously it's a dream of everyone's [to play in Europe]," he added. "Watching Barcelona, Manchester United and teams like those you want to be there. You'd like to think you'd have the opportunity but you have to keep working. I know I have a lot to work on still. Maybe one day it might be in the picture but for now I'm just trying win a championship with the Galaxy."
DeLaGarza has seen many players of his age choose different paths as to where to begin their professional careers with varying results. Some players like Alejandro Bedoya signed overseas and have achieved success while others like Robbie Rogers returned back to the states quickly after brief European efforts.
On the other hand, some players like Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, and Clint Dempsey have gone on to great success after beginning their careers in MLS.
DeLaGarza feels that every player is different and there is no set path. For now, he is happy with his choice to begin his career in MLS at the Galaxy while playing under Arena.
"It depends," DeLeGarza discussed. "If you're going to go over there to a league lower than the MLS, maybe it's not worth it – or maybe you're not playing. Maybe you go to a big club and the talent is high that makes you compete, that can be good. It goes both ways. If you're playing, you can't fault anybody but if you're not playing, maybe you can stay here."
DeLaGarza and the US national team will take on Chile on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in the first game of 2011 for either team.