Houston get their man at right back, LA bid AJ DeLaGarza heartfelt goodbye

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Whatever position he ends up playing, the Houston Dynamo believe they just signed an MLS star in A.J. DeLaGarza.

On Friday at the MLS SuperDraft, news broke that Houston had acquired A.J. DeLaGarza from the LA Galaxy for $125,000 in General Allocation Money and $50,000 in Targeted Allocation Money. The defender played all over the backline for the Galaxy, but new Houston Dynamo head coach Wilmer Cabrera sees him as a standout right back, the position he played in college.

“We’re going to talk to A.J.,” said Cabrera after the SuperDraft “but for me, A.J. can be the best right back in the country. He’s solid. He knows how to attack. He’s a very good defender, and he has unbelievable quality and heart.

“So having him there playing every game and solid right there [at right back] will be very important for him, for the club.”

DeLaGarza has had to battle some difficult injuries since becoming a regular starter for the Galaxy in 2011, but toward the end of the 2016 season he had difficulty getting on the field. A fresh start in Houston could be just the thing the Guam international needs to rehabilitate what has always been a very promising career.

“The DeLaGarza trade was a very important transaction for our team,” said Houston Dynamo general manager Matt Jordan. “To leverage the assets that we brought in: moving the fourth pick and acquiring the Allocation Money, to leverage that Allocation Money to bring A.J. to our team while adding a foreign spot and getting the tenth pick.”

The Dynamo gave up the fourth overall selection in the 2017 SuperDraft to get $100,000 in General Allocation Money and a 2017 international roster spot, a move that was then used to help execute the DeLaGarza trade. The team came into the draft with a plan, and team officials were pleased that they managed to pull it off.

On the Galaxy side of the trade, the move was one of the difficult decisions every team has to make, as MLS roster rules often necessitate sacrifice. Drafted in 2009 by the Galaxy, DeLaGarza was a fan favorite whose off-the-field tragedy in 2014 and charitable work through Luca Knows Heart saw him named the 2014 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year.

“I love A.J. as a player and a person,” said head coach Curt Onalfo. “Unfortunately sometimes in sport you have to make moves to create space, to hopefully make a team better.

“We are grateful for the service that A.J. [DeLaGarza] has done for this club. He’s a class act on and off the field.”