CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy have posted a lot of blowout victories in the past couple of months, over some of MLS’s best teams and a few weaklings, too, but none of them were anywhere near as rewarding as Friday’s 6-0 destruction of Colorado.
It followed a devastating week for A.J. DeLaGarza, his family and the team, which was in mourning after the veteran defender’s infant son died Thursday, a week after his birth, from a congenital heart condition.
The Galaxy wore black armbands emblazoned with Luca DeLaGarza’s name, there was a moment of silence before kickoff, and supporters stood during the 21st minute, then chanted Luca’s name.
DeLaGarza, his wife, Megan, and their families weren’t at StubHub Center, but the Galaxy know that what they accomplished against Colorado, with the club’s biggest margin of victory since an 8-1 mauling of Dallas in 1998, touched them deeply.
“Tonight I texted [A.J. DeLaGarza]. I said is there something I can do for Luca, [and] he said just get a shutout, play hard for Luca – that will mean the most,” said defender Omar Gonzalez, DeLaGarza’s roommate at the University of Maryland and Galaxy teammate since both came into MLS in 2009. “Tonight was about something bigger than all of us, playing for his family, and it’s just great that there’s so much love here. I’m happy that we could get this win for them tonight.”
DeLaGarza, a versatile defender, trained this week and hoped to play against the Rapids, but Luca was placed on life support a week ago and succumbed after he was weaned off of it Thursday to prepare for another heart surgery. He and his wife knew one of the possibilities was that their son would not make it.
“We play a sport for a living that we tend to think it is very important, and people get carried away, I think, with the importance of it,” said Landon Donovan, who converted two penalty kicks and assisted two more goals. “We try to keep it all in perspective, and life is more important. And we’re just heartbroken for a teammate and for our friend Megan and their family. We do our job and get on with it, but that it doesn’t change what happened yesterday.
“So that’s going to be a part of our season going forward. It doesn’t mean that after tonight we forget about it. It’s still a piece of all of us that we feel is lost, and it’s a sad night.”
Donovan said the emotion surrounding the game “probably” influenced the Galaxy’s grand performance.
“We had a feeling that they would all be watching,” he said. “Again, it doesn’t take away from the pain they’re feeling, but maybe it puts a few smiles on their faces [after] three or four days where they’ve had no smiles and a lot of tears.”
Said head coach Bruce Arena: “It was emotional, and [A.J. is] a person that we all care about, he’s such a good person, he and his wife. … We feel his pain and we just want to be as supportive as we can, and certainly our thoughts were with them tonight. It certainly was a game we wanted to win for him, no question about it.”
That Rapids coach Pablo Mastoeni, who played for LA last year, wore a “Luca” armband was touching, and the New England Revolution, Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls informed the Galaxy they plan to hold moments of silence for Luca before their matches this weekend.
Club president Chris Klein said that DeLaGarza would determine when he returns to the team – LA plays Wednesday at Montreal and the following Sunday at San Jose – and that “Bruce has been great with him and defers to him with whatever he’s comfortable doing.”
“I don’t know that I could put myself in his shoes and know what it is that he and Megan were going through and have been going through, not only last week but the last couple months,” Klein said. “A.J. is a very tough kid, but you can’t prepare yourself for going through something like this. All we could do is come around him as his extended family and support him as best as we could.”