Categorized | MLS, News

Gonzalez Shines once again for Galaxy on MLS’ Biggest Stage

Posted on 02 December 2012 by iyeo

If there was ever a time to show the value of Omar Gonzalez to the Los Angeles Galaxy, it was during the first four months of the 2012 season.

Gonzalez had missed the first four months of the season after suffering an ACL tear in his left knee while training with German side FC Nuremberg. The Galaxy surely felt his absence during that time, as they went 3-8-1, surrendered an alarmingly amount of goals during that time while going through a succession of Center Backs to fill his spot alongside fellow CB AJ DeLaGarza, so it’s no coincidence that his return has helped spark the Galaxy to a second half turnaround culminating in its second straight MLS Cup, with the 6-5 Defender playing a vital role in the LA backline against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday afternoon.

“Omar’s a good player, he’s a big defensive body, great in the air (and) we knew that coming in,” Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis said. He played a very good game and a player like that who’s on top of his game is tough to beat.”

Of course, Gonzalez’s worth to the Galaxy was evident as far back as his rookie season. Drafted out of the University of Maryland with the third overall pick in the 2009 MLS Superdraft, Gonzalez was expected to turn around the fortunes of a Galaxy backline that had given up over 60 goals in 2008. Gonzalez certainly did just that, as he and college teammate AJ DeLaGarza asserted themselves on the Galaxy backline that had 11 shutouts that season as the Galaxy reached the MLS Cup Final that season only to lose to Real Salt Lake on penalties.

Gonzalez had another stellar campaign in 2010 and parlayed that into his first call-up to the United States National Team in August in a friendly against Brazil and continued to impress in 2011, winning MLS Defender of the Year honors while helping the Galaxy to its first MLS Cup title since 2005. Gonzalez parlayed all that into a trial run with German side FC Nuremberg. However, the stint ended almost as quickly began, as on the first day of training, he suffered an ACL tear in his left knee. Ironically, the tear occurred during a collision with possible US teammate Timothy Chandler.

Gonzalez’s status for the 2012 season ranged anywhere from eight months to perhaps being lost for the entire season. The Galaxy certainly felt his absence during that time. In addition to its 3-8-1 start, the Galaxy were leaking in goals similar to its 2008 performance. Some of those glaring moments were letting in three unanswered goals in its season opener against Real Salt Lake and allowing the San Jose Earthquakes to come back from two-goal deficits in two meetings. The Galaxy struggled to find a suitable replacement for Gonzalez alongside DeLaGarza, starting players such as Tommy Meyer, Andrew Boyens, David Junior Lopes and Bryan Gaul on Gonzalez’s spot.

While the Galaxy were struggling early on, Gonzalez was working hard to get himself back in game shape, and made his return to the lineup much sooner than expected, on July 4 against Philadelphia. His return at first didn’t net immediate returns, but that quickly changed, as the Galaxy went through a run during August and September that saw them earn clean sheets in four straight matches. The Galaxy finished fourth in the Western Conference, but defied the odds to reach Saturday’s final, where Gonzalez turned the game into his personal showcase, using his 6-5 frame every way he could, from marking Dynamo forwards Will Bruin and Calen Carr to asserting himself in the air by cutting off long balls, corners or set pieces to scoring the equalizer via a header off a Juninho cross in the 61st minute.

“Everything was working for him tonight,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “He’s the type of player, you can move him around. They take advantage, they’re flipping balls up in the air. It happens, but I think he’s been probably the turning point in their season was when he got healthy because a lot of things were good going forward but maybe not as strong defensively. I think he’s definitely an important part of their back four.”

Gonzalez actually could have had a brace on Saturday, but a potential go-ahead goal off a David Beckham corner was disallowed after referee Silviu Petrescu ruled that Gonzalez had held down his marker. Still, his performance on Saturday made him the first defender to win the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

“It just turned out to be an amazing season for me, myself, the organization,” Gonzalez said. “It’s just truly outstanding players and friends on this team that I’ve made. It’s been a really special year.”

Gonzalez’s first United States call-up was against Brazil on August 10, 2010, though the general consensus surrounding both the Galaxy and Dynamo, especially after the Final was that more caps could be in store for Gonzalez in the near future.

“He’s a young player with a lot of talent,” David Beckham said. “I hope someday that he will play for the U.S. national team more regularly because he deserves it. He deserved the MVP today and are very lucky to have a young player with his talent on this team.”

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