As I drove home from my office in downtown Salt Lake City tonight, I was thinking about A.J. DeLaGarza. My heart hurt for him. A.J.’s son Luca passed away on Thursday due to complications related to hypoplastic left heart syndrome, just a week after Luca’s birth.
— AJ DeLaGarza (@AJD_20) September 5, 2014
I guess my thoughts were with A.J. in part because I’m a new father myself. I can’t imagine losing my 7-week-old son. The pain of such a loss would doubtless leave a hole that would be impossible to fill. Yet, we as soccer fans are trying our best to fill that hole in the hearts of A.J. and his family by grieving with them and providing what meager support we can.
In that sense, we soccer fans are an interesting bunch. Paradoxical even. As an RSL fan, I have constantly rooted against the LA Galaxy, including A.J. DeLaGarza. They’re the enemy, rivals, deserving objects of scorn.
But such a one-dimensional point of view rightly takes a back seat when the world of sports intersects with real life. On most nights, A.J. DeLaGarza is DeLaGarza the foe. But tonight, he’s A.J. the father and A.J. the fellow competitor. A.J., a brother in the family that soccer has made of us all. He’s hurting, and we’re doing what we can to be there for him. Look no further than Twitter to see how all of MLS, from fans to players to clubs, have reached out to A.J. These are just a small sample:
Thinking of the De La Garza family RIP little baby angel
So sorry for your loss @AJD_20. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) September 5, 2014
— Real Salt Lake (@RealSaltLake) September 6, 2014
So sorry for your loss @AJD_20. MLS family is thinking of ya.
— Dax McCarty (@DaxMcCarty11) September 5, 2014
— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) September 5, 2014
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) September 5, 2014
— Jonah Freedman (@jonahfreedman) September 5, 2014
— Mike Magee (@magee9) September 5, 2014
— AJ DeLaGarza (@AJD_20) September 3, 2014
— Lalo Fernandez (@Lalofernandez_1) September 1, 2014
— San Antonio Outlaws (@AOSanAntonio_TX) September 6, 2014
Terribly sadden by the passing of Luca DeLaGarza.
— Raymond Hando (@RaymondHando) September 6, 2014
Bummed to hear @AJD_20 little guy didn't make it. Condolences goes out to the family.
— Charles Barnard (@ccb1212) September 5, 2014
I can't even imagine what AJ DeLaGarza is going through. #LucaKnowsHeart
— Kelby Ferrell (@Kelby_13) September 6, 2014
— Ashleigh Ignelzi (@AshleighIgnelzi) September 6, 2014
Sending all of my thoughts and prayers to LA Galaxy defender AJ DeLaGarza (@AJD_20) and his family for their loss.
— Matt Evans (@tenorman85) September 5, 2014
Devastating news regarding A.J. DeLaGarza's son. Thoughts for him and his wife during a very difficult time.
— Alicia Rodriguez (@soccermusings) September 5, 2014
— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) September 5, 2014
— The Original Winger (@OriginalWinger) September 5, 2014
— Dynamo Theory (@dynamotheory) September 5, 2014
In that way, supporters of American soccer—and honestly, of soccer anywhere—are not just supporters of their clubs only, but of one another outside the field of play. Look no further than April, earlier this year, when Philadelphia Union supporter and Sons of Ben member Eric Shertz passed away. Condolences and support poured in from across MLS, including a tifo prepared by fans of rival DC United.
And that’s where I find myself tonight, supporting A.J. DeLaGarza—the man and the competitor—and hoping that he can feel the support of all of us around MLS.