Photo by ISIPhotos.com
WASHINGTON – On Tuesday evening in Columbus, Ohio, Omar Gonzalez reminded fans of MLS and the U.S. Men’s National Team why he’s such a promising talent, one who could potentially play a key part in the U.S.’ hopes next summer in Brazil.
On Saturday evening at RFK Stadium, Gonzalez reminded many onlookers of his biggest flaw, a tendency to switch off mentally at the most crucial of moments.
The LA Galaxy central defender’s 39th minute gaffe cost his team dearly, part of a sluggish performance that saw the defending champions fail to take full points against one of the worst teams in MLS history, settling for a 2-2 draw with D.C. United.
And it gets worse: LA lost multiple players to injury – including Landon Donovan, who left the match at halftime with an ankle injury. He joined A.J. DeLaGarza on the bench, who was forced out of the game early on with a badly dislocated elbow.
“We all saw the game,” lamented Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena after the match. “I’m disappointed – at the end of the game we’re positioned to have three points. We need to do better in those situations. Give DC United credit, they battled real hard for 90 minutes.”
United did indeed battle hard, displaying a fight and resilience that’s been lacking from their game all year.
In an absolute mismatch, it came as little surprise when LA pulled ahead early. Just seven minutes in, Landon Donovan played a clever backheel to Robbie Keane, who juked and fired a shot past an off-balance Bill Hamid.
Surprisingly enough, United fought back. The field tilted in their favor shortly after the LA goal, and D.C. began to push for an equalizer. They got it, just six minutes from the halftime whistle.
Gonzalez settled a ball 30 yards from goal, then looked for an outlet, which wasn’t there. An onrushing Pontius stripped the Galaxy defender, streaking in on goal and finishing around Jaime Penedo. It was Pontius’ first goal in the run of play in a year.
“As a player coming back off of an injury, it’s easier to get into a game once you score,” a cheerful Pontius said after the match. “I felt more confident after that. My fitness is still lacking, though, so I need to keep working on that.”
As for Gonzalez, he was quick to own up to his error after the match. “I felt we were playing a lot of long balls, and I wanted to start playing the ball on the ground, start connecting some passes through midfield. Pontius was good to be right on my heels; I didn’t see him there.”
His head coach, on the other hand, was unforgiving when asked to offer his thoughts on his center back’s performance: “If this was a teaching moment, he failed – he got a bad grade. He’s experienced enough as a player now where he shouldn’t be in that position. Hopefully he continues to grow from his experiences.”
Both teams traded blows in the second half, though D.C. seemed to be behind the wheel for long stretches. L.A.’s second goal would come against the run of play, in the 80th minute. Michael Stephens controlled the ball at the top of the box, firing a perfectly placed shot to the far post. United, however, weren’t finished; they equalized just four minutes later, as Kyle Porter headed home a Perry Kitchen cross.
It was just the second time in 2013 that D.C. United have scored two goals or more.
The game will likely serve as an important stepping stone for United, who will look to build chemistry ahead of their U.S. Open Cup matchup with RSL in two weeks, the only truly meaningful match that remains on their schedule.
L.A., on the other hand, are left to wonder what happened, and will desperately try to steer the ship back towards the top of the Western Conference.
What did you think of L.A.’s performance at RFK? Do you think the Galaxy have reason for concern?
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