A.J. DeLaGarza jumps to play for Guam, still keeps door open for USA

Otto Greule Jr

A.J. DeLaGarza will play for Guam, and while it will not cap-tie him, it does look like the defender might close the door on the USA before long.

A.J. DeLaGarza is a well-regarded MLS defender with two United States caps to his name, but he is jumping ship to Guam, or is at least taking a step in that direction. The LA Galaxy centerback has accepted a call-up to play for Guam in the East Asian Cup, which will not cap-tie him to the Matao, but is at the very least a step away from the U.S.

This was a huge decision for me. I’d like to keep that door open for me to play for Guam.

DeLaGarza is eligible to play for Guam through his father. He played twice for the U.S. in January as part of the domestic camp with MLS players and a handful of Scandinavian players, but he has not been given a look with the first team and probably won't any time soon. He is a good MLS defender, but not a dominant one and right now his more highly regarded teammate Omar Gonzalez can't get a look from Jurgen Klinsmann so it is tough to imagine DeLaGarza getting one.

At 5'9'' and not particularly strong, DeLaGarza is limited physically. He makes up for it by being excellent in reading the gam and has a sixth sense for anticipating teammates' errors and covering for them, but that isn't enough to keep him at centerback internationally. He's played at fullback for the U.S., where he doesn't provide much of a threat going forward, but is decent in defense. Really, he doesn't have a position and is limited everywhere, but he does have the unique talent of being supremely versatile so he can play all the way across the back line.

Is that enough to keep him in the U.S. picture? So far, it looks like the answer is no.

Obviously he is not shutting the door on the U.S. and is just keeping Guam as an option, but it appears as if that is the direction he will go. The U.S. could cap-tie him in World Cup qualifying, but that is highly unlikely. A Gold Cup call-up, which would cap-tie him seems much more likely, but would DeLaGarza even accept it? If he thinks that is his ceiling in the U.S. program, he might very well decline a Gold Cup invite and look to play for Guam.

Guam is out of World Cup qualifying so they will not have the opportunity to cap-tie DeLaGarza until the AFC Challenge Cup, which serves as qualifying for the 2015 Asian Cup. Guam is never going to play in a World Cup and even an Asian Cup is a longshot, but playing for a country as a first choice player, even if just in qualifying, might trump filling out the roster in tournaments the U.S. doesn't really care about.

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