I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Many thanks to fbref.com for making gathering these stats easier. Please check them out! Featured Image credit: LA Galaxy v Colorado Rapids at StubHub Center on September 5, 2014 in Carson, CA. Photo by Mora/LA Galaxy.
The New England Revolution recently announced the signing of versatile veteran defender AJ DeLaGarza. The 33-year-old veteran of the league for 12 seasons has made his career at both center-back and right-back.
DeLaGarza comes to the Revolution after what to him will be a disappointing 2020 season where he played and started in 6 games for expansion side Inter Miami. In those six games, Inter Miami had a record of 3-0-3, though the play-in round loss to Nashville may have been more of a lack of first-team attackers than anything else. Overall in those six appearances, including the playoffs, DeLaGarza played 516 minutes, going the full 90 in 5 of the six games. While he did not score any goals or assist this season, he did have an 84.8 percent passing completion percentage. Defensively DeLaGarza completed 6 of 11 tackle attempted and made eight blocks, 5 of which were shot blocks. He was also on the field for the full 90 of 1 of their three clean sheets, and the only victory when keeping the back end clean.
AJ DeLaGarza began his career with the LA Galaxy after being the 19th overall pick in the 2009 MLS Super Draft and spent the following nine seasons within the Galaxy’s organization. He amused a nice trophy collection as a prominent figure in the 2011, 2012, and 2014 MLS Cup Championships. In his eight seasons with the Galaxy, he amassed 204 appearances, of which 196 were starts, contributing two goals and four assists. In both 2011 and 2014, he started 4 of the playoff matches; in the playoff success to 2014, he added an assist. Revolution fans will remember him going 120 minutes in that final against them and keeping the Revolution offense at bay for the majority of the match.
DeLaGarza departed the Galaxy for the Houston Dynamo in a trade in January of 2017. He spent three seasons with the team, and while healthy, was a crucial piece in the Dynamo backline. In the seasons that DeLaGarza was healthy, he had 57 appearances and 57 starts for the club. DeLaGarza’s 2018 season was shortened due to recovery from an ACL injury at the end of the 2017 season. Still, he was back and on the bench for the 2018 US Open Cup Final victory over the Philadelphia Union.
In a defense depth move by the Revolution, AJ DeLaGarza gives this team a veteran defender. With the experience he brings from 12 years in the league, DeLaGarza provides the Revolution with an experienced option. For the entirety of his time in LA, he has already worked with Bruce Arena, bringing in someone who will be familiar with the coaches playing style and expectations. His previous work with Arena will allow for an easier time acclimating to the group and scheme. New England is also getting a proven winner, who knows what it takes to get over the finish line, with his 3 MLS Cups and 1 US Open Cup.
I think having someone with DeLaGarza’s knowledge can only help the young Revolution defenders from a development side. Henry Kessler had an outstanding rookie campaign, but where he goes in his sophomore year can only improve by having more people to help him learn. Similarly, Brandon Bye and Tajon Buchanan can both learn from DeLaGarza’s experience at right-back. Buchanan is still developing his knowledge of the position, and while Brandon Bye is quite sound on the defensive side, he could use some assistance going forward.
With the lack of playing time and lack of opportunities in Miami, DeLaGarza has a chip on his shoulder to prove that he still can offer something to a club. While 2020 was an interesting season with the Covid break, DeLaGarza would have expected more playing time when signing with Miami. While he may not come straight into the side, if he works hard, he can challenge for the starting position at right-back and possibly push Buchanan back up on the wing.
Since joining the club, DeLaGarza has made a fantastic first impression with the fanbase. He has done nothing but show support and understand the club’s history in his social media posts. From his welcome message, including the two supports ground, The Midnight Riders and The Rebellion, to arriving in Boston quickly after signing to get incorporated in the team sooner. Finally, possibly one of the classiest gestures, DeLaGarza, who has routinely worn the number 20 throughout his career, informed the Revolution community that he needs to find a new one due to what that number has meant club for his time with the Revolution. Everything he has said is nothing more than pure class from DeLaGarza, making me want to see him succeed even more.