CARSON, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza is on the mend, perhaps not soon enough to see any more action this year, but the LA Galaxy center back is targeting the Dec. 1 MLS Cup final for his return. Sort of.
He participated Wednesday in his first team drill in training since spraining his left MCL at the end of September and said he's pleased to see the progress he'd hoped to see a month ago.
“When I first got the injury, [doctors] said six to eight weeks,” DeLaGarza told media after the session at the Home Depot Center. “I got an injection, and the said it might take [recovery] down two weeks, so that's why from the very beginning I was 'four weeks and I'll be back.' That was my mindset. I guess I guessed wrong. ...
“Around three weeks [into rehab], when I still wasn't running or it wasn't getting much better, that's when I started getting down on myself -- like 'What's going wrong? What am I doing wrong?' -- but it takes time to heal.”
DeLaGarza has missed eight games since hurting his knee in a confrontation with Omar Cummings in a Sept. 30 draw at Colorado, but his absence, he suggests, might have helped LA overcome San Jose in the Western Conference semifinals. Rookie Tommy Meyer, who at 6-foot-2 is five inches taller than DeLaGarza, has made a strong impression filling in next to backline leader Omar Gonzalez.
“I'm happy for him and proud of him ...,” DeLaGarza said. “I think it actually helped us that he was in there [rather] than me, because teams like San Jose have big guys up top, and they're just going to dump the ball up front, and I'm not going to win too many head balls over [Stephen] Lenhart or [Alan] Gordon. But he's a big body back there who can do that.”
DeLaGarza started running last week and is already cutting and doing ballwork, most of it with away from teammates with assistant coach Jovan Kirovski – but Wednesday's passing exercise has DeLaGarza looking forward.
He says he's primarily working on fitness and still endures daily soreness, but that “nothing is really bothering me with movements or anything.” His goal? "To train [fully] soon, hopefully.”
Landon Donovan (hamstring) and Juninho (Achilles' tendon), who were injured in last weekend's first leg of the Western Conference Championship against Seattle, and Edson Buddle (plantar), who was not available for the 3-0 win, did not train Wednesday. Head coach Bruce Arena said he's “not really concerned right now.”
“We're just getting back into things [after two days off],” he said. “We'll start being more concerned probably around Friday.”
The hope is all three will be ready to go for Sunday's second leg at Seattle. If the Galaxy hold onto their lead, they'll advance to the MLS Cup final at home against Houston or at D.C. United. That's when DeLaGarza hopes to be ready.
“That's my goal,” he said. “Just to dress, be able if I'm called upon to help the team, whether it's off the bench or not starting or starting or not dressing, whatever it may be.”