CARSON, Calif. -- A.J. DeLaGarza's wife gave birth Thursday to a daughter, and the LA Galaxy defender knew there was more to her arrival the moment he heard what time she'd arrived.
Noelle Cora DeLaGarza was born via Caesarean section at 8:28 a.m. PT at a hospital in Torrance, a time that matches the birthday of the DeLaGarzas' son -- Luca, who lived for a week before succumbing to a heart condition -- born nearly 14 months earlier.
Thursday made for a joyous day for DeLaGarza and his wife, Megan, whose tragedy last year spurred outpourings of grief and support throughout the American soccer community.
“I think it was stressful until she came out and we found out she was all good,” DeLaGarza said following the Galaxy's training session Friday at StubHub Center. “Crazy coincidence, the time she was born. I didn't even make that up -- I wish I could make that up.
“The nurse told me her official birth time was 8:28, and I was, like, 'What?' That's pretty special.”
Luca DeLaGarza was born Aug. 28, 2014, at Children's Hospital Los Angeles with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a usually fatal congenital defect that had been discovered in tests the previous April. He underwent surgery after birth, was placed on life support the following day, and lived for only a week.
Noelle DeLaGarza arrived healthy, at 7 pounds, 18 ounces and 19 inches in length.
He said he felt Luca's presence throughout Megan's pregnancy.
“All the time, he's always watched out for [Noelle], and with her birth time, I think he was there,” DeLaGarza said. “It's hard not to think he was. And, hopefully, he'll continue that.”
DeLaGarza said her birth produced “flashbacks to last year,” and he spent Thursday learning some of the joys of fatherhood.
“Obviously, I couldn't hold Luca, couldn't change his diapers, and I'm doing all that in the first day [with Noelle], and it's disgusting,” he said. “But it's fun, and when she's crying, I pick her up and she stops crying, and that makes you feel better. It's just a special bond.”
Noelle's middle name is short for “Corazon” -- “heart” in Spanish -- which also links to Luca. The Galaxy wore T-shirts emblazoned with “Luca Knows Heart,” which also were sold to support Children's Hospital LA's heart institute, in a victory over D.C. United the day before Luca's birth.
Megan DeLaGarza's parents had flown in from Maryland ahead of the birth, and A.J.'s mother is slated to arrive in Southern California on Halloween and his father a couple of days later.
Mother and daughter are scheduled to come home on Sunday, but A.J. is pushing for a postponement for Monday. He'll be in Kansas on Sunday, when the Galaxy meet Sporting Kansas City in an MLS regular-season finale that will determine whether LA is the Western Conference's No. 2 seed for the playoffs (7 pm ET, ESPN/ESPN3).
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“I said wait for Monday, so I can take her home,” he said. “[Megan's] parents could take her, but with the dog and everything, I want to be there for that first moment when them two meet, as well.”
Diesel, a lab terrier that DeLaGarza described as a “little crazy dog,” began preparing for Noelle's arrival Thursday.
“They had us bring Noelle's hat over to the house so Diesel could smell it and get used to the smell,” DeLaGarza said. “So he snatched it out of my hand and ran with it. I had to chase him.”