Gonzalez's quick rise to the top

LA's defender has established himself as one of the league's best

CARSON, Calif. -- In his short MLS career thus far, Omar Gonzalez has had quite a bit of success.

The Los Angeles Galaxy defender started every game for the club last season and helped lead his team to the MLS Cup. He walked away with Rookie of the Year honors and earned himself a call-up to the US national team camp in January.

His personal accolades continued in 2010, as he was named part of MLS’ First XI and will represent the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United on July 28.

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announces All-Star First XI

Since joining the team as the third overall pick in the 2009 SuperDraft, Gonzalez has been taking in as much as he can from his more experienced teammates, and that has paid off handsomely.

“Ever since the beginning, I just came in with an open mind,” Gonzalez said. “I just asked a bunch of the veteran players, and they just gave me great advice and helped me stay humble, so I think through hard work and just working with them every single day [are] the reasons why I’m better right now.”

It is perhaps fitting that the All-Star Game will be held at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Born and bred in Dallas, just a few hours drive from the locale where MLS’ best will take on Manchester United, Gonzalez will have his clan on site to support him.

“My family played a big role for me to be where I am right now,” Gonzalez said. “For them to be able to see me play in this game is going to be amazing for me and for them. I’m just really happy that they’re going to be there.”

The young defender has been an integral part of the Galaxy’s success in 2010. Through 17 games, the team sits atop the Western Conference standing with a 12-2-3 record, having allowed just a minuscule eight goals all season. And Gonzalez has played all but one game this season. The match he missed? A 2-0 loss at New England.

But it’s the team’s overall success and not his individual achievements that Gonzalez pointed to when asked about being named to the First XI. The club’s success also helped land three other teammates on the First XI as Edson Buddle, Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts all received the honor.

“I’ve been doing well here," he said. "The players and coaches have been helping me, and I just want to thank them. I wouldn’t be getting this honor if it wasn’t for my teammates. We started this league off with a bang. We were on fire and that just played a big role – Edson scoring every game, Landon getting every assist, Donovan being big-time in goal. It was easy picks for everyone.”

About the only thing that’s possibly taking away from the match will be his likely reduced role. The Galaxy will play the Puerto Rico Islanders in a CONCACAF Champions League qualifying match at Home Depot Center on the night before the All-Star Game, and LA will need him fresh for that match.

“We’re playing to win, so I’m definitely going to play in that game [against the Islanders], and I’ll try and play in the All-Star Game,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully, Bruce starts me in [the All-Star] game.”

If he does see the field against Manchester United, Gonzalez will have the opportunity to play against two world-renowned clubs in a span of 10 days. The Galaxy host Real Madrid on Aug. 7, and the chance of playing against both clubs is important.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Gonzalez said. “It just gives me an opportunity to see what that level is like. Hopefully, I’ll be there one day and it’ll just give me a step forward.”

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