The LA Galaxy lost points and a little ground after surrendering an early lead in Sunday's 1-1 draw at Colorado, but those mean nothing compared to what they might have lost in the long term.
A.J. DeLaGarza, a pivotal figure on LA's backline the past two seasons, exited after a half-hour when he suffered what appeared to be a serious injury in a 50-50 challenge with Omar Cummings.
DeLaGarza crumpled to the ground clutching his left knee after a crunching collision that could be heard around the stadium and on the game telecasts, apparently injuring his medial collateral ligament. He required considerable on-field medical attention before being stretchered off the field and helped to the locker room by Galaxy staff, careful to not put weight on the leg.
LA called the injury a sprained knee, and tests in Los Angeles over the next couple days will determine the severity of the injury – and how long the fourth-year defender will be sidelined.
Rookie Tommy Meyer, making his first league appearance since May 5, stepped into the middle next to Omar Gonzalez and played well as the Galaxy withstood what was often heavy pressure but conceded just one shot on target over the game's final hour.
“It's a shame,” Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders told media in Commerce City, Colo. “Having A.J. going down is huge for us, but at the same time, Tommy came in and did a brilliant job. That's difficult in a game like this. To come off the bench cold and play as well has he did, that's great.”
The Galaxy's summer turnaround solidified once the first-choice backline – Gonzalez and DeLaGarza in the middle, Sean Franklin on the right and Todd Dunivant on the left – was grouped together Aug. 12 for the first time this season. LA is unbeaten over seven games since while conceding just four goals, including Jaime Castrillon's 16th-minute answer to Marcelo Sarvas' 10th-minute rocket.
Meyer figures to be in the mix to replace DeLaGarza next weekend against Real Salt Lake – and perhaps longer. He has made only five MLS appearances, despite making the game-day roster 23 times, but started three CONCACAF Champions League games and a US Open Cup match.
Other options are Andrew Boyens, Meyer's partner in the past two Champions League games, and David Junior Lopes, who started 16 MLS matches but hasn't played since the 4-0 loss Aug. 5 at Seattle.
DeLaGarza has started 30 of LA's 31 MLS games this year, plus three Champions League matches and both friendlies. He was the backline anchor while Gonzalez recuperated from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept him out until July.
“Injuries are a part of sports,” captain Landon Donovan said. “A.J. for years now has been as important a player as any. If he's out for any significant time, it will hurt. But Tommy did a really good job. He's arguably our most improved player this year from the beginning of the year until now, and if we have to depend on him, we'll depend on him.”