With busy summer ahead, Gonzalez more comfortable and confident, but still improving

OmarGonzalezLA (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – From being named MLS Cup MVP as his LA Galaxy successfully defended their 2011 championship in December to starting in all-important World Cup qualifiers, Omar Gonzalez has accomplished quite a bit during the past six months.

The scary part? Gonzalez is only beginning to scratch the surface of the player he can become.

A busy summer awaits Gonzalez at both club and international levels, but the multitude of games the 24-year-old centerback is set to partake in for the LA Galaxy and U.S. Men’s National Team will provide him with more than one of the busiest stretches of his career. They will also give Gonzalez more room to grow.

“He’s still, even though he’s in this for about five years, a player that has a little bit of peaks and valleys and we’re trying to see if we can get him a little bit more consistent,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “That’s what I’d like to see. Omar playing at a consistent level is much better for us and for Omar than rather having the great games and the games that sometimes are subpar.

“We want him to be consistent. If he’s consistent, he’s a very good player.”

U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is surely hoping for the same type of consistency from the aerial authority. Gonzalez struggled mightily in his first World Cup qualifier in Honduras back in February, but responded brilliantly about a month later by helping the Americans record a pair of cleansheets.

First, Gonzalez fought off blizzard-like conditions in a 1-0 home win over Costa Rica and he followed that up with another strong defensive showing against Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and the rest of archrivals Mexico in a scoreless draw at Estadio Azteca.

The two-time MLS Cup champion concedes that those bounce-back performances served as a “big confidence-booster” and helped him further adapt to the style of play at the international level, but Gonzalez also came away with something he appears to deem even more valuable.

“Bigger than that, more games with those guys and getting to know them and their personalities on and off the field,” said Gonzalez. “The more I’m there, the more comfortable I’m going to be.”

That clearly was not the case back in February. Klinsmann elected to start Gonzalez – who, with just six caps to his name,  is still inexperienced internationally - in central defense in Honduras over grizzled veteran and former U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra.

The decision to throw Gonzalez into the fire came as a shock to many observers considering the degree of difficulty traditionally associated with road qualifiers in CONCACAF, and it was made to look even more puzzling after Gonzalez was directly involved in the second-half Jerry Bengtson goal that doomed the Americans to a 2-1 loss against Los Catrachos. Gonzalez hesitated in tracking Bengtson’s run inside the penalty area for just a moment but that was enough for the Honduran forward to bury a square pass into an open net.

“It was definitely a difficult first time being with the first team and never meeting some of those guys and just meeting them for the first time,” said Gonzalez on how he looks back at the game now. “The Honduras game happened and I think what’s great is that I got over it and just forgot about it and focused on the next games.”

While Gonzalez rebounded well with his two starts in qualifying in March, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Not only can Gonzalez develop a better understanding with his U.S. teammates and find a bit more consistency in his game, but he can also work on his decision-making with the ball at his feet as well as his leadership skills.

History, however, seems to indicate that Gonzalez will accomplish all of that and then some.

“We learned in the first year that he started out pretty raw but he kept progressing and getting to the next level,” said Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan. “The following year, it was, ‘How do you build on that?’ Now, he’s at a point where he needs to be a leader for us, which he’s starting to do, and he’s making his way into the national team.

“Sometimes guys will progress to a certain point and then they stop but he seems like he just keeps progressing and every step that comes he handles it and he handles it well and then he moves on to the next step. We fully expect that he’s going to continue his rise and keep getting better.”

This entry was posted in Featured, MLS- LA Galaxy, SBI MLS Spotlight, U.S. Men's National Team. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to With busy summer ahead, Gonzalez more comfortable and confident, but still improving

  1. TomG says:

    My big worry with OG is his propensity to always make one big mistake per game. Will that increase as the competition ratchets up a notch? Those mistakes will also be more costly as International teams are often more liable to punish those mistakes and finish their chances. So I would agree that consistency is his main issue. I don’t see much improvement in that regard yet with the Galaxy this year. He still makes the odd blunder or two per match.

  2. MiamiAl says:

    He will be great. He is learning under America’s greatest coach Bruce Arena. Sky’s the limit!

  3. Dank says:

    Our best centerback. I have total confidence, and am eager to see how far he can go.

    • Chuck says:

      I would like to see Omar and Cameron get some consistent time together. To me those two could do big things in the back.

      • bryan says:

        they have been since Omar became the starter. are you talking about having them both at CB? i’m confused because Omar has literally played with Cameron every time he has played for the US. Cameron has just been at RB.

  4. beto says:

    “blizzard-like conditions” vs Costa Rica — ya i would say that was a bit more than blizzard-like; more like a frozen hurricane.

    great article; consistency is certainly an issue but an issue that every CB has, the only thing that will help that is a lot of playing time. glad to hear that he quickly moved past the Honduras game; that short term memory is vital to pro athletes. you hear baseball ppl talking about it a lot for closing pitchers; give a walk off homer one day but turn around and shut them down the next – similar situation here. Omar certainly has the makings of a great defender, it will be interesting where his career goes in the near future. A lot of clubs need CB’s in Europe, Mexico and MLS (LA), i just hope he is a everyday starter wherever he goes.

  5. Charles says:

    People that were shocked the OG started in the qualifiers need to watch more soccer.

    • bryan says:

      this is a silly comment. the article is referring to people who were surprised when Omar replaced Boca and had NOT played in ANY qualifiers. his first one was February 2013, and since then, has only played in 2 more qualifiers. and those last two were the only good ones and we haven’t seen him since.

      until February, Boca was starting at CB next to Cameron. people were freaked out when Omar took over in Honduras and then was awful. luckily, he made up for it. but it makes sense people were nervous, no matter how good he was for LA.

  6. dantheblue says:

    With all the talk about developing MLS into a world class league, here is the opportunity to put up… or shut up… Sign Omar as a DP and pay him huge money to stay in MLS. Money will keep and bring big time players… 20 years is a pretty good track record but the time is now to push the boundaries… Nay sayers… save it…

    • GW says:

      They probably won’t.

      Producing a player of Gonzo’s caliber or signing him to big money would not necessarily mean MLS is a “world class league”.

      And you are being premature, Gonzo has the potential to be a big time player and is looking good but he isn’t there yet.

  7. Riggity says:

    I am trying to think of some possible places Omar might be able to transfer to after this season, anybody have any clubs you think he would fit in well at? I would love to see him make a move but at the same time I want to make sure he gets starters minutes which is guaranteed wit the Galaxy.

    • Beto says:

      Club America, and if anyone wants to say that ligaMX isnt a step up from MLS -watch the CA vs Cruz Azul final tomorrow.

      Other than that i think a lot of the big euro teams will be shopping for cbs this summer leaving the Europa and other medium sized clubs needing to restock; could make a good move there but idk any right now.

  8. PD says:

    can’t even fathom wat he would have looked like partnered with Subotic…

  9. bottlcaps says:

    Omar Gonzales has had the good fortune to not only play with a very good back line, one that has been together for a long time (in an MLS timescape), but is ironically composed of just Americans. At a time when most MLS teams search far and wide, from country to country in search of good defensive players. The Galaxy and Bruce Arena has brought them in from college and has TWO MLS Cups to show his choices work well.

    The big conundrum facing LA and Bruce Arena is signing Gonzo to anew contract. He does want to stay, but they will have to take a DP slot to sign him. I think after the Nurmburg travesty. OG might be a little gun shy in pushing off to Europe, but sooner or later he will leave to bigger team. Even Mexico has been casting an eye towards the “BIG O”

    I don’t think you will see LA grab a DP star this summer until they know what Gonzo’s going to do, or going where to.

    The Galaxy have been auditioning both Meyer and Leonardo for the understudy role if OG goes, but it will still be big hole to fill.

    He is already starting to handle the faster pace of International play.
    I really think he stay with the Galaxy until the World Cup and after a great WC, off to Europe.

  10. GW says:

    bottlcaps,

    Why do you think Gonzo would be gun shy after what happened at Nurnberg?
    Unless you are of the conspiratorial mindset that says Chandler did him on purpose, that injury could have easily happened to him training in LA,
    From what I read he otherwise enjoyed his short time there and wanted to do it again.
    I do think unless he finds a really good situation, he might be better off signing a short term deal in a place, maybe even LA, where he knows he will get good competition and lots of PT.
    I’m not sure MLS does short term contracts though.
    Then he can give the World Cup his best shot. If he does well there then the sky might really be the limit.

  11. Michael F. SBI Mafia Original says:

    I habe to say, and I know you guys don’t get a lot of credit when it’s good, but that was a very well written article. What is OG’s contract situation? Is he in the last year of his contract? Is he off to Europe?