Tag Archives: AJ DeLaGarza

Undefeated At Home, Dynamo Still Have WORK To Do

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Houston Dynamo v. Sporting Kansas City 1-1

Every soccer fan knows that there are some ties that feel like wins and others that seem like losses. The Houston Dynamo’s draw on Saturday keeps them undefeated at home, but many fans left the match wanting more. In a game where Houston saw the return of their Honduran playmakers in the front and back, the midfield that has created so many successful counter attacks was nowhere to be found.  

The SKC rivalry has always been contentious, and since the Dallas rivalry is often conflated pre-match trash talk and post-match bickering, I feel like the SKC rivalry is the one that is most truly felt among the players. This matchup is always physical, but Sporting definitely came in looking to break the rules. At one point SKC’s Melia even came out of the goal box to the penalty spot to take a goal kick, and the official may have let it slide had Tomas Martinez not drawn so much attention. The broadcast showed a quick clip of Martinez’s protest near the 15 minute mark, but there was no other mention of the issue in the broadcast.

The pairing to watch for this opinionated writer was no doubt Alberth Elis and AJ DeLaGarza on Houston’s right side. They spent most of the first half failing to communicate and missing key passes to and from one another. They were each visibly frustrated, and one of my only tweets from the match offered a crowdsourced solution.

This was difficult to watch as these are undoubtedly my two favorite players on the pitch. I love Elis’s speed, skill, and the fact that his stats show a spirit of teamwork, with as much effort in assists as goals. AJ is the personable workhorse whose commitment to his family and charity work on social media builds the kind of goodwill that the Dynamo need to win fans’ hearts – the team’s JJ Watt, if you will.

The right side confusion was perfectly illustrated in the 27th minute when DeLaGarza came forward to support and somehow ended up ahead of Elis and battling defenders in Kansas City’s box. Elis, who had shaken his defenders and found space, was begging for a pass. However in his success against SKC’s defense, DeLaGarza couldn’t draw his gaze up to Elis, and finally lost possession to a two-man challenge.   

The Dynamo were down after a silly mistake when Lundquist was surprised by a run in the 63rd by SKC’s Croizet. Shortly after, my starcrossed players finally got it together in the 69th minute, and the beauty of their pairing was amazing. Maynor Figueroa sent a long ball up and across to DeLaGarza, who headed it to Elis’s feet just outside of the box. A beautiful shot through ill-prepared defenders tied it up for Houston and secured the draw.

AJ DeLaGarza and Alberth Elis celebrate their success on the right side.
Photo: Leslie Chairez

At the end of the match, the Dynamo remained undefeated at home and are still in the top 5 of their conference with games in hand. As many players leave for international duty over the next two weeks (including Elis to Honduras and DeLaGarza to Guam), Houston will again seek success in their depth to begin defending the US Open Cup on June 11. Houston then faces a brutal cross-country, 3 match road stint through the end of June.

Featured image: Leslie Chairez

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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A One Man Story: Houston Dynamo Fall to LA Galaxy

Official Houston Dynamo Reporter

By Darbi Lockridge // @sonchyenne

Going into last weekend, the Houston Dynamo were rested, undefeated, and ready to battle Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy. While both teams have had a positive start to the season, the Galaxy came in with fewer goals and wins despite more matches played. On both the west and the third coast, previews centered around Ibrahimovic – Houston reminding fans that Zlatan had yet to score on the Dynamo and LA simply painting their social media with his image. For this writer, however, the man to focus on going into this match was Houston defender AJ DeLaGarza.

AJ played for the Galaxy for eight years before coming to the Dynamo in 2017, and the popularity that he had with those fans is still going strong today.

LA’s Angel City Brigade honors AJ’s presence with a banner featuring his charity, LucaKnowsHeart, named for his late son who was born with a congenital heart defect.

Houston didn’t have to wait long to find out why DeLaGarza is so loved, as he quickly thrilled us with a strong Twitter jab at our rivals. The Houston soccer community was immediately won over.

AJ’s social media has continued be a fan favorite – even keeping him relevant through an ACL injury that kept him out for most of the 2018 season. His old posts are an inspiration as I battle my own injury/surgery recovery struggles today.

As the Dynamo traveled to LA for Friday’s match, AJ shared stories of catching up with friends and family. His demeanor early in the match looked as though the time in LA had really fed him. The Dynamo played well and their defense seemed to have a plan to shut down the Zlatan-centered LA attack, up until the thirtieth minute when the man himself – AJ DeLaGarza – panicked in the box and shut Zlatan down with a bear hug tackle that earned a penalty for the Galaxy.

Ibra converted the penalty and finally had his first goal against Houston. LA led the match until the Dynamo’s own offensive superstar, Alberth Elis, received his own penalty shot and tied the match in the 53rd. A Polenta goal in the 88th minute brought victory to the Galaxy, but the stats of the match show a very even game that could have gone either way.

Fans on both sides looked to that bear hug in the box as the moment where the match broke open for the Galaxy. AJ showed his class again on social media – admitting his error, making no excuses, and not shying away from or lashing back at disappointed fans. While the soccer community, LA fans, and Zlatan himself see this match as a story about Zlatan’s victory, I see the man on the other side of that pivotal moment as the true protagonist.

AJ DeLaGarza stands above many others as an example of how to build a dynastic career in one city, transfer and build on that positive reputation, and to survive a defeat with aplomb. Zlatan claimed this week to be MLS, but I believe that players like AJ should define the the league. His positivity and sustained success is what the league needs to continue to grow the fan base.      

Featured image: AJ DeLaGarza, @AJD_20, on Twitter and @LASoccerNation on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @sonchyenne

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