Meet DeLaGarza, Guam’s most high-profile player

The 28-year-old Maryland-born defender was on the radar of Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann and even played two friendlies for the United States before declaring for Guam in August 2013.

AJ DeLaGarza has played two friendlies for the United States.   -  K. Murali Kumar

A.J. DeLaGarza is arguably Guam's most high-profile player, plying his trade in America's Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy. The 28-year-old Maryland-born defender was on the radar of Bob Bradley and Jurgen Klinsmann and even played two friendlies for the United States before declaring for Guam in August 2013.

“It was a tough decision,” he says of the switch. “It took me a year or two to make it. In that time, I was still getting called up to the U.S. team so I wanted to see where that was going. I went to four camps four years in a row. Obviously they saw something in me but I don't think I was ever going to be a first-choice guy, a guy that made the World Cup roster. So I decided to come here. I thought I could make a bigger impact coming here and helping the country, helping the youth.”

DeLaGarza, who is eligible to play for Guam through his father, laughs when asked what the move has meant for him. “A lot of travel,” he says. “It took me 24 hours to get here and I'm playing a 90-minute match and heading back to LA. It's tough on your body. But I'm enjoying it. You get to see all these different countries.”

When India travelled to Guam in June this year, DeLaGarza came up against Robin Singh, a battle he enjoyed. “I'm sure we'll see the same on Thursday,” he says. “He's a physical guy. But the MLS is physical and I face guys like him day in and day out. The idea is to read the play. In Guam every time they played the ball into his feet, I was there to take it off him. You've just got to get into him, be a little physical, touch him. He doesn't like contact.”

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