The Galaxy cut ties with their longest-tenured active player Friday when they dealt defender A.J. DeLaGarza to the Houston Dynamo in exchange for $175,000 in allocation money.
DeLaGarza, 29, made 204 regular-season appearances in eight seasons with the Galaxy, winning three MLS Cups. Only four players have appeared in more games with the team.
“This decision was extremely difficult to make,” Galaxy General Manager Peter Vagenas said in a statement. “A.J. is a champion and will always mean so much to this club, this city and our fans. We thank him for his many contributions to the Galaxy and know he will forever be a part of our family. With that said, we feel that this will give us flexibility to strengthen our roster going forward with the use of additional allocation money.”
DeLaGarza, a fan favorite, was the team’s last link to its 2011 MLS Cup championship team. Since its loss to Colorado in the Western Conference semifinals in November, the Galaxy have parted ways with Mike Magee, Robbie Keane, Leonardo, Steven Gerrard, Jeff Larentowicz and its entire first-team coaching staff. In addition, forward Alan Gordon is unsigned and appears unlikely to return.
Following that exodus, Gyasi Zardes becomes the current team leader in regular-season games played for the Galaxy with 107.
DeLaGarza was unhappy with his playing time last season, when he lost his starting job at center back to Daniel Steres. Versatile enough to play at outside back, he still appeared in 24 games, but he wanted a more permanent role this season.
Asked about DeLaGarza’s status last month, Galaxy President Chris Klein indicated the veteran would return.
“We’ve had conversations with A.J., he’s a Galaxy guy and he wants to be here,” Klein said.
The Galaxy aren’t expected to hold on to the allocation money they get in the deal for long. Allocation money refers to funds a team can spend beyond the league’s $3.845-million payroll cap and the Galaxy appear ready to spend theirs to sign at least one player, and may add as many as three.
Earlier this week a Galaxy spokesman said the team “was close” to a deal with Gregor Breinburg, a 25-year-old Aruban midfielder playing for NEC in the Dutch Eredivisie.
The team has also been linked to talks with Villarreal midfielder Jonathan dos Santos, the brother of Galaxy designated player Gio dos Santos, and French midfielder Romain Alessandrini.
Dos Santos, 26, made $1.28 million last year and, according to the Spanish press, has a $20-million escape clause. That figure appears inflated, however, and may be a negotiating ploy by Villarreal.
Alessandrini, 27, will receive about $1.92 million this season from Marseille. That means to sign either player the Galaxy would have to use an open designated-player slot — they have two — or as spend as much as $700,000 in allocation money on each to stay within MLS salary guidelines.
The Galaxy are also negotiating with midfielder Jermaine Jones, who has been offered a contract slightly above the league’s maximum payroll charge of $480,625. As a result, allocation money would be needed to get a deal done with Jones as well.
Jones, who is training at StubHub Center with the U.S. national team, declined through a U.S. Soccer spokesman to discuss his contract situation.
But Mexican national team star Javier Hernandez dismissed talk he was leaving the German Bundesliga for the Galaxy. “The only thing I’ve heard are rumors,” he told the Rheinische Post. “I’m happy here. My sole interest is to stay at Bayer Leverkusen.”
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11