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Orlando, DeLaGarza Cross Paths Again in Open Cup

Jun 13, 2017

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has always brought a new level of excitement to American soccer for 104 years. Teams that typically don’t face off meet in a tournament for a chance to prove themselves against new levels of competition. For some, that’s where the excitement ends. For others, the Open Cup has a more significant meaning. When North Carolina FC and the Houston Dynamo take the pitch this Wednesday, NCFC midfielder Jon Orlando and Houston’s A.J. DeLaGarza will see their lives come full circle, as the two childhood friends will turn competitors in the fourth round of the US Open Cup.

Orlando and DeLaGarza were born and raised in Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. and the friendship between the two professionals goes back as far as middle school.

They were both members of the D.C. United youth program, the local Olympic Development Program, as well as other indoor and outdoor soccer teams throughout their youth. The two have played all over the region together and have even traveled to Paris to play PSG’s youth team in an international tournament.

“We were really close when we were younger,” said Orlando. “I used to spend a lot of time at his house, especially when we were playing on the indoor team together. We’d practice near his house, and I’d be over there for weeks at a time.”

Eventually the pair split ways when DeLaGarza became a direct competitor of Orlando after joining the Baltimore Bays. DeLaGarza would go on to play collegiate soccer at Maryland and then get drafted by the LA Galaxy, where he made 204 appearances and earned the reputation as one of the most versatile defenders in the MLS. Orlando has forged his own extraordinary path to professional soccer and most recently made his professional debut at 28 years old.

The soccer community is tight-knit and epitomizes a “small world”, where connections are built early and last a lifetime. Orlando and DeLaGarza call the same place home and now play across the country from one another only to find themselves reunited again.

“It’s a small world. Soccer, especially when you’re playing at a high level, becomes smaller,” Orlando continued. “When you’re from Maryland, you’re all playing ODP together, you’re all playing on the high-ranking teams with and against each other. If you’re from the same state, if a player’s coming in that’s a pro, they’re going to know that guy, just based off how small it is when you get to the upper levels of playing the game.”

For North Carolina FC, the Open Cup provides the team with a chance to test itself against MLS opposition and expand its national exposure. The added competition not only brings in a high-level team to Sahlen’s Stadium, but also an increased level of excitement for the fans and players alike. Orlando values the experience and says he’s looking forward to hosting his childhood friend.

“I’m excited. It’s always good when you have a MLS team into town,” he said. “Obviously, the MLS has set the standard for soccer in the United States, and it’s given us the opportunity to showcase our ability.  Obviously, some of these guys have come from MLS, some of us have grown up playing in MLS programs like myself.  So, it’s amazing and I hope it’s a good turn out.”

See Orlando and DeLaGarza in action this Wednesday, June 14 when the Houston Dynamo come to town. Purchase tickets at NCFCTix.com or by calling our box office at 919-459-8144.

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