AJ DeLaGarza vs. Monterrey
USA Today Sports

AJ DeLaGarza antsy to get back on the field for LA Galaxy after elbow injury

CARSON, Calif. – A.J. DeLaGarza is expected to make his first game appearance – and possibly his first start – since dislocating his elbow nearly six weeks ago when the LA Galaxy wrap up their CONCACAF Champions League group-stage slate Thursday night in El Salvador against Isidro Metapan (10 pm ET; Fox Sports 2), and he can hardly wait.

He's got medicine with him just in case.

“The last couple of months, I've been breaking out in hives when I get stressed out,” said the fifth-year defender, who returned to the Galaxy's 18-man game roster but did not figure in Sunday's scoreless draw with San Jose. “I haven't broken out in hives for a month, and sitting on the bench [against the Earthquakes], I started breaking out. It was just stressful sitting on the bench. I brought medicine [for the trip to El Salvador] so I won't break out this time.”

Watching, DeLaGarza says, is more stressful than playing, and he's understandably antsy to see his first action since Sept. 14. He says he could play the full 90 minutes if required, and he sure could use the time with the playoffs looming.

“I haven't played in a month, and I need to get that game fitness, that game speed,” he said. “I can even see in practice a little but that if you don't play for a month, you start to lose that sharpness. A month isn't too long, so it's not bad. This game will help going into the playoffs.”

DeLaGarza hurt his left elbow when he tumbled while defending D.C. United's Chris Pontius along the left byline in the early moments of a 2-2 draw at RFK Stadium. It's “not 100 percent, and it probably won't be till the end of the year,” he said, but it won't hinder him, especially after switching to a smaller, less bulky brace this week.

“People think you don't need your elbow in soccer, but there's so many aspects in the game [where you do],” DeLaGarza noted. “Where you need to hold someone off, or tactical fouls here and there, or you get knocked on the ground and you need your arms.

“… The last couple days [in training], I've been getting into some pushing altercations, just trying to test it out during play, and it's fine.”

Head coach Bruce Arena won't say how, or if, he'll use DeLaGarza, but the Galaxy have taken a largely reserve roster – it also includes Juninho, who is suspended for Sunday's MLS regular-season closer at Seattle (9 pm ET; ESPN). DeLaGarza could play next to Tommy Meyer in the middle or in the right-back slot he occupied at the start of the season and after the International Champions Cup friendlies in early August.

He said he's become more comfortable at right back since his injury.

“I think since I've been hurt, I've been able to get more touches in, just working on that and passing,” he said. “That's been my focus, so I'm ready to play wherever. We'll see what happens.”

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