CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy center back Omar Gonzalez spent much of the last month earning his stripes with the U.S. national team and now the 24-year-old defender is eager to apply what he learned to his club side.
A year after dealing with an ACL injury that took away half of his 2012 season, Gonzalez was called up by Jurgen Klinsmann for the U.S. national team’s annual January camp and promptly made his first start for the U.S since 2011 in their scoreless draw against Canada.
Gonzalez’s performance against Canada drew rave reviews from critics and it was no surprise that he was named to Klinsmann’s squad that faced Honduras in a World Cup Qualifier on Feb. 6. The U.S. boss was so impressed with the 24-year-old that he awarded him the start in San Pedro Sula.
The match was a difficult for the Americans who endured intense heat and humidity from the midday sun as well as an incredibly hostile crowd at the Estadio Olímpico. After the U.S. took an early lead on a goal by Clint Dempsey, Honduras equalized less than five minutes later on a brilliant overhead strike by Juan Carlos Garcia. Ultimately, a late defensive breakdown by the U.S. led to a goal by New England Revolution striker Jerry Bengston which gave the Hondurans a 2-1 victory.
“It was definitely tough; it was a test of your mental strength,” said Gonzalez of the match. “It really took a lot out of players, the heat and the crowd in the first half was a lot. But you just learn from that stuff and try hard on every single play. That will take you a long way.
“That was one game, I think that there were certain plays that you have to look at, but on the day, it was just a tough game, a tough field, a tough environment and now you move on,” Gonzalez added. “You just keep on trying to get better and stay at a top level and now I just need to play better for the Galaxy.”
One player who made undoubtedly made an impression on Gonzalez during World Cup qualifying duty was U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who the defender admits has some similar traits to LA’s newest number one goalkeeper, Carlo Cudicini.
“One thing that I’ve noticed from both of them is that they talk a lot,” said Gonzalez. “They’re constantly talking to you and telling you when to slide over, when to drop back and when to keep the line or look over your shoulder. Every good ‘keeper has that and they’re both technically sound so I have a lot of confidence in both of them.”
After returning to the club late last week, Gonzalez was placed in LA’s starting lineup on Wednesday in the club’s 7-2 preseason victory over UCLA, adding a goal in 45 minutes of action. Now tasked with prospect of re-integrating himself to his club, Gonzalez is already looking for ways that he can help LA move along as their March 3rd season opener draws ever near.
“Maybe I can help raise the level here effort wise but there is still three weeks going and we have some time,” said Gonzalez. “But everyone is moving along well. Bruce knows how to move a preseason along well by starting off slow and working guys in slowly and eventually get technically better and round us into form.”