MLS Cup: Gonzalez focused on cup, not caps, as Galaxy’s defensive leader

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By JOSE M. ROMERO

The big man in the middle has quietly become a star for the Los Angeles Galaxy, but there's one more thing for standout centerback Omar Gonzalez to achieve this season to go with his Defender of the Year and Best XI honors.

He needs to win the MLS Cup.

The MLS title eluded Gonzalez in his rookie season, 2009, when the Galaxy fell to Real Salt Lake in Seattle. Now L.A. gets another crack at it on their own pitch at the Home Depot Center Sunday night, and the central figure of the league's top defense will be among those front and center.

"Everyone wants it. We need that Cup this year," Gonzalez said Thursday after practice. "It has to be our year and everyone realizes it.

"If we show up the right way on that day, it's pretty hard for any team to beat us."

Gonzalez talked about winning this year's best defender award and credited teammates for helping the Galaxy post so many shutouts.

"I just wanted this to be sort of a breakout year for me and I wanted it to be one of my best and I think that I accomplished that," he said. "My third year around, I think my body's been coping with the season better and in the offseason I treated my body well, worked out, kept on training… Overall, I just was a lot better and I was a lot more consistent this year."

Gonzalez's form this year has earned him plenty of plaudits and awards, but it has not earned him a U.S. national team call-up under new U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann yet. It is a snub that led Gonzalez to state in recent months that he would be open to a call-up from Mexico, though he stated emphatically to SBI last month that his goal is to play for the United States.

"I'm not really worried about that right now," Gonzalez said of his national team future. "I'm worried about my team, the Galaxy, and I'm thinking about winning this game first and foremost and then what comes after that, I can handle it when it comes."

Handling the Dynamo is next, with its size and physical style. With that comes burly veteran Brian Ching, who has been on the big stage before, having won multiple MLS titles.

"He's just been great for many years and he can score goals from anywhere in the box, so we just have to keep an eye on him," Gonzalez said. "He's tough. Big guy, takes up a lot of space. It's very hard to get around him. Just got to make sure he doesn't give you that first bump." 

While Gonzalez expects the Dynamo to attack, he added that the key to his own team's success is a defense-first mentality.

"Everyone's bought into what (coach) Bruce (Arena) has been selling, and that's get into our shape fast and defend with everybody from the forwards to the actual defense. Everyone knows their roles," he said.

Gonzalez's partnership with A.J. De La Garza will be key to the Galaxy's chances on Sunday, and it is a partnership the pair have honed since their days as centerback partners for the University of Maryland.

"I love playing back there with him," Gonzalez said of De La Garza. "He's very tenacious and hard-working and never gives up and I like those attributes in him." 

"It's been probably what we've relied on the past three seasons," Arena said of his defense. "They've grown every game and every year."

A long journey, someone told Gonzalez.

"It has, and it's not done yet," he answered.

This entry was posted in Major League Soccer, MLS Cup, MLS- Houston Dynamo, MLS- LA Galaxy. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to MLS Cup: Gonzalez focused on cup, not caps, as Galaxy’s defensive leader

  1. DC Josh says:

    I have a gut feeling Galaxy choke and lose to the underdogs. Just a gut feeling.

  2. SorryLA says:

    Totally agree, Josh.

    I think LA comes out overconfident and Houston scores early on a defensive lapse….then, while LA tries (unsuccessfully) to get an equalizer, Houston gets a 2nd half goal that seals it and then the Galaxy start moaning.

    Just a premonition. :)

  3. David says:

    One thing that doesn’t seem to be mentioned in all the Omar for the US clamor is whether the team thinks he deserves a call up. If I recall Howard was influential in getting Hamid a call up. Does Landon Donovan have no pull? Is he calling for his Galaxy team mate to get a call? I haven’t seen anything in the media where he says he should. Makes me wonder…

  4. CACuzcatlan says:

    Only the media has been playing up LA. After 2009, I think Bruce Arena knows to keep expectations in check and keep everyone focused on the game instead of the hype.

  5. downintexas says:

    I hate when players throw there duel nationality around. I like Omar and want him to rep the US sooner than later. But be a pro, no need to throw that around makes you look like a little cry baby who has not gotten their toy.

  6. Alan says:

    I can tell you that this is THE game that the Galaxy has been aiming for all year. They are not going to take anything lightly, especially after being whacked 3-1 just a few weeks ago with a weakened squad. This will be a complete destruction of the Dynamo, especially with Davis out (still, right?).

  7. Indigo Montoya says:

    No way that Galaxy don’t win. It could be the the MLS swan song for quite a few of their squad, and if B. Davis is injured or not 100%, LA wins this match.

  8. Kevin says:

    Agreed! especailly with Davis out and the Galaxy being undefeated at home all season! Donovan, Beckham, Keane… the list goes on. Galaxy win 3-1 and are 2011 MLS Champions!

  9. Nano says:

    With the form Becks and Keane have found, the Galaxy will not lose that match.

  10. trickhog says:

    Have even read the actual quotes from Gonzalez about this? Or realized that what he said was in response to a direct question about whether he would consider Mexico if the US doesn’t ever call him?

    Some people seem to think that Gonzalez is running around shouting from the rooftops that he’s threatening to chose Mexico….

    Please know the facts before complaining….

  11. dantheblue says:

    Regarding O O Omar’s not being called up to the Natties, I wonder how much Klinsmann has been influenced by Gonzalez’s remarks last year that he is “…often distracted and not really thinking about the game.”? I predicted when he said that he may live to regret uttering such foolishness. Just saying…

  12. Dune Man says:

    How much is left on his current contract? Seems like he has done everything one needs to win in MLS (assuming they get the cup). Getting the Defender of the Year and high praise every other year seems like a great feather in the cap….but there does not seem like there is more he can do in MLS to prove his full talent. Should this be the year he tries to go down and find a team in Mexico or Europe? If he can prove himself in another league then there should not be any question of a chance of USMNT call up….of course even then if he doesnt get the call up he can comfort himself with a much bigger paycheck outside of MLS ;-)

    I have hear other players going on load or getting looks and trials outside MLS but have not heard anything really this year on Omar. It seems like he should be able to get some of the same buzz in the UK as John and Tim or maybe push for a chance down in Mexico since those guys have been getting looks at the Nats.

  13. Goalscorer24 says:

    Don’t curse them with the undefeated at home statement! I will be at the game, go Galaxy!

  14. Poo says:

    +1.

    there are only all of these comments about it because every journo under the sun asks him about it. This is probably because they read endless fan comments on places like SBI about how much better Gonzo is than Ream etc. They are just pandering to what will get clicks.

  15. Ne-Dub says:

    “Gonzalez focused on cup, not caps”. Haha, makes since he is NOT getting called up.

  16. TheFacts says:

    Omar Gonzalez and Geoff Cameron would make the best CB tandem imo

  17. Steve McSteve says:

    His season isn’t over, so of course we haven’t heard whether he’s going on loan. News about those other players (Ream, Beckerman, Agudelo, Larentowicz, Rogers, etc) only came out after they were eliminated from the playoffs.

    I hope Gonzalez goes on loan and is in good form once the January camp starts. I also hope the same for Geoff Cameron. And I’m disappoint that George John decided to turn down loan opportunities. Between those guys and Ream, we have 4 MLS centerbacks that I hope are all at the January camp. Because the CB position is one where I think we need competition and hopefully at least one emerges.

  18. Indigo Montoya says:

    of those w/o a cap?

    that wouldn’t be a bad pairing all things considered.

  19. Good Jeremy says:

    I like it. And I’m really surprised that with Cameron’s midfield chops that Klinsy hasn’t called him in as a CB yet. Not calling Gonzo in to play in his finesse style that’s too fancy to score does make sense though.

  20. Scott says:

    Nobody outside of the US thinks he is ready for something bigger. Tim Ream is getting looks from outside the US and with the USMNT. Looks to me that those that know more about soccer than us bloggers think that Ream is worth exploring and Gonzo is not yet ready. Look at his game in the MLS. He boots the ball when he gets it and, of late, is not the dominant CB on his own team. Not sure where all the love is coming from? Sure he can look at Mexico…he just can’t make a move until they actually want him. My own personal yardstick is, “I think that he is good. Nobody wants him. I must be wrong.” If he is as good as everyone seems to think that he is…why doesn’t anyone else want him? Probably because the scouts and managers aren’t as smart as the soccer bloggers. Or, he doesn’t rate anything better than the top tier of the MLS.

  21. Mikey says:

    After the awful performances by Ream, Landon came on ESPN stating OMar deserves a look.

  22. Fiend says:

    eurodouchy