As fans, we form bonds with players, we enjoy getting glimpses into their personal lives through social media, but AJ was different. I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. As news about Luca spread, so did the gestures of support. AJ and Megan created Luca Knows Heart, a symbol to raise awareness for the rare Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Soon after, fans started making banners, shirts, some even got the symbol tattooed. When Luca was born, the team wore Luca Knows Heart shirts, just a week later, Luca was taken off life support and passed. LA beat Colorado 6-0 the next night, every single player that scored dedicated their celebration to Luca. The swell of support that the DeLaGarzas received for the next few weeks across the league speaks volumes about how much other teams respected AJ as a player and a person. 2014 ended with AJ lifting the MLS Cup for the 3rd time and helping the Galaxy become the First to Five. In a genuinely heartfelt gesture, the LA Riot Squad named Luca as their Player of the Year thus engraining him in Galaxy history.
I was taken aback when just a few months later, AJ and Megan announced that they were expecting a 2nd child. The strength that it takes to bounce back from such a tragedy is immeasurable. Noelle DeLaGarza was a beautiful and healthy baby girl, born on 8:28AM, Luca was born on 8/28, forever tied to her big brother.
What does all this have to do with a player trade? Ultimately, it doesn’t, its about the connections we as fans make with players, especially ones as special as AJ DeLaGarza. We cheered for him, we mourned with him, we celebrated the birth of Noelle with him, we feel loyalty to him. When the Galaxy traded AJ for $175,000 of MLS Monopoly money, we felt like it was a betrayal. Galaxy fans want to stick up for a man whom they feel a strong personal connection to. They are angry. Perhaps it’s the new direction the Galaxy organization is taking, perhaps fans feel like the team’s been gutted so much already. After all, it seem as though the Galaxy have lost their mastermind in Bruce Arena, the fiery lifeblood that pumped through the team’s veins in Robbie Keane but worst of all, in trading AJ, the LA Galaxy have lost their heart.