This is the Los Angeles Galaxy: A.J. De La Garza

Jo-Ryan SalazarSenior Analyst IMay 30, 2010

COMMERCE CITY, CO - MAY 05:  A.J. De La Garza #20 of the Los Angeles Galaxy kicks the ball away from the control of Colin Clark #1 of the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on May 5, 2010 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Galaxy defeated the Rapids 1-0.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

This is Part 11 in a series of articles on the players that make up the 2010 Los Angeles Galaxy.

A.J. De La Garza is a player who is used to success. It flows through his veins, every time he juggles a ball during training, pumps his fists in celebration, or frustrates his foes when they go in for the attack.

Don't let his 1.75 meter frame fool you. As a right back, this Los Angeles Galaxy defender has been critical in marking his opposition with speed, toughness, and dispossessing ability.

Football flows through De La Garza's veins. It's been that way ever since he was brought to the world.

Adolph Joseph De La Garza was born on November 4, 1987 in Bryans Road, Maryland. It's a small town of just less than 5,000, located near a unassuming city the locals call Washington D.C. Just in proximity to Bryans Road is the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Working side-by-side with the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, the Naval Surface Warfare Center is where the likes of explosive warheads and propellants and propulsion systems for guns, missiles, rockets, and ejector seats in military aircraft.

De La Garza had his own dream: to be a player who could bring out the same firepower that the government was readying just next door. Well, not in that sense, but you get the point.

De La Garza got his first big break playing for D.C. United's Under-12 side at the Coupe Danone in France, under coach Dave Sarachan. Sarachan was unaware at the time that their paths would meet a decade later, this time as an assistant coach.

A versatile player who could play as a forward and defender, De La Garza scored nine goals and 12 assists in his senior year with the Chargers of Indian Head's Henry E. Lackey High School. De La Garza also played with youth side Casa Mia's Bays, who captured a couple of USYSA national titles.

De La Garza joined Sasho Cirovski's Maryland Terrapins in 2005. In his freshman year, the Terrapins won the College Cup over New Mexico. He started 13 of his 20 games played with Maryland, limiting the Akron Zips to five shots in the second half of the NCAA Quarterfinals

De La Garza's role increased as a member of the 2006 Terrapins, starting all 21 games he played in. He reprised his role as one of the iron men on the Maryland backline with fellow Galaxy starter Omar Gonzalez in 2007 and was eventually rewarded for his efforts as Co-Most Valuable Defensive Player with Gonzalez in the 2008 College Cup.

For his efforts, De La Garza was reunited with Gonzalez as the 19th overall pick of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft by the Los Angeles Galaxy. Just like Gonzalez, he was thrown into the fires, making his debut during the 2009 season opener against D.C. United on March 22.

At the time, De La Garza was an understudy to Sean Franklin, who had already impressed by being the first Galaxy player to win the MLS Rookie of the Year. But a midseason hamstring injury to Franklin forced De La Garza to play at the right side of the defensive unit.

It was a role that he would relish. With 1,754 game minutes played at the right back position of Bruce Arena's 4-4-2 formation, De La Garza used his intangibles and acceleration to lead the Galaxy to the MLS Western Conference regular season and playoff crowns and an MLS Cup appearance in his rookie year.

De La Garza earned his first goal in a match against FC Dallas on September 12, 2009. That came two months after recording his first assist in the Galaxy's 1-0 victory over Chivas USA on July 11.

A.J. De La Garza continues to make his presence felt on the defensive back line for the G's. On occasions, he has the skills to do so in less than a minute.

Against the Philadelphia Union on May 1, it took just 50 seconds for Edson Buddle to feed the ball inside for De La Garza, whose clinical finish dictated the rest of the 90 minutes for LA.

Whether it's sacrificing his body for a stop, or dispossessing an opposing midfielder or forward on the wing, A.J. De La Garza will stop at nothing to carry his team home to the finish line.

In the game of soccer, size isn't the strongest intangible. Playing the game with a winning mentality is, and the best footballers have this in their blood.

And one of those...dons the No. 20 for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!