Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena will have a personnel selection to make in defense with his first choice center back returning to fitness ahead of MLS Cup.CARSON, Calif. -- Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena has a choice to make.
With stalwart defender A.J. DeLaGarza being declared ready for Saturday's MLS Cup final against the Houston Dynamo, Arena will have to choose between his seasoned option who has missed considerable time in DeLaGarza, or young rookie Tommy Meyer, who is experiencing his first playoff run as a professional.
"I'm ready" DeLaGarza said. "If I'm called upon, I'll be ready. I've been doing everything for the last week or so, no restrictions. I've been out for a while, but I've been doing fitness still, riding the bike, running on my own. Obviously, it's a little bit different than soccer fitness. We had a couple "game practices" out here, so that helped.
"I'd say [I'm at] about 90 percent. Nothing's limiting me. I've got my pace back, I think."
DeLaGarza started 30 games in defense for the Galaxy this season and started in last year's MLS Cup final as well, but he missed the final three games of the regular season and the entire postseason so far with a knee injury that he suffered against the Colorado Rapids on Sept. 30. He also has the familiarity of playing with Gonzalez at the University of Maryland in their college days.
Meyer has filled in admirably in DeLaGarza's place, gaining confidence and experience after a shaky beginning to the season when his charge was to fill in for the injured reigning MLS Defensive Player of the Year Omar Gonzalez. The Indiana University product has started every one of the Galaxy's playoff games and partnered well with Gonzalez, who himself returned from a serious knee injury this summer, which gives Arena a selection quandary.
"Tommy's done well," Arena said. "In the beginning of the year he wasn't ready to play. He needed a little more experience and maturity, and I think the last six or seven months has been a great learning curve for him. He's done very well during the playoffs.
"A.J.'s ready to play. I'm going to pick one. Whoever I feel gives us the best chance to win."
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