CARSON, Calif. — LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena could have a tough decision to make as he devises his backline for the MLS Cup final, with A.J. DeLaGarza looking likely to return and challenge rookie Tommy Meyer for the starting role next to Omar Gonzalez in the middle.
DeLaGarza, the Galaxy's Defender of the Year, hasn't played since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee at the end of September, but he's been back in training the past two weeks and says he expects to be ready to go with LA take on Houston on Saturday afternoon at the Home Depot Center (4:30 pm ET, ESPN, TeleFutura, TSN/RDS in Canada).
“It's good, almost 100 [percent],” he said following Tuesday's training session. “I'm not limited whatsoever. So no reason I can't play if I'm needed. ... I'm confident. Just getting my rhythm back. This last week has really helped my confidence.”
DeLaGarza, who anchored the Galaxy backline while Gonzalez spent the first half of the campaign rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament, was hurt in a 1-1 draw Sept. 30 at Colorado and declared a couple of days later that he hoped to return for the playoffs. Two weeks ago, after recovery had taken longer than he'd hoped, he said his goal was to be available for selection if LA made it to the title game.
Arena says a decision closer to game time.
“We're going to let A.J. get through the week training, see how he holds up,” said Arena, who is giving the team an off-day on Wednesday. “I'm optimistic he'll be able to be part of our team on Saturday.”
DeLaGarza participated fully in Tuesday's session. Midfielder/forward Landon Donovan, who missed the second leg of the Western Conference Championship against Seattle with a hamstring injury, also was active and is expected to be ready Saturday.
Meyer, who has started nine straight matches since DeLaGarza was hurt, is taking in stride the uncertainty over whether he will start.
“I try not to think about it at all,” he said. “It's up to Bruce and [how we do in] practice, and you just kind of go about the same way you prepare for every game. That's what I've been doing the whole week, and I think that's probably what A.J.'s been doing, too.”
The rookie center back, who has played well during the playoffs, is happy to see DeLaGarza near full-strength, even if it diminishes his playing time.
“You never want someone to be out injured, even if they play the same position as you,” Meyer said. “You're always excited for someone to get back into the group. ... Either way, I'm ready. I've just got to prepare myself for the next opponent and see what happens.”