Defensive changes expected ahead of SuperClasico
CARSON, Calif. – Omar
Gonzalez was in a private suite last Friday at The Home Depot
Center, watching the LA Galaxy’s 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. And he couldn’t
The reigning MLS Rookie of
the Year, Gonzalez was suspended for the game because of yellow card
accumulation – just as he was for a 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution on
July 10. But after seeing the squad struggle in his absence, the 21-year-old vowed
to start playing smarter.
“It was very frustrating,”
he said. “I really wanted to be out there.
The crowd was amazing, but
I’d rather have the crowd watching me out there playing.
“I don’t want to be in that
position again. I hated it.”
He is expected to be back in
his customary spot in central defense in Sunday’s Honda SuperClasico against
Chivas USA, replacing either Yohance Marshall or Leonardo, who started in his
absence against New York.
The return of Gonzalez will
surely help the Galaxy defense and the back four could be further bolstered by
the potential return of his preferred partner in central defense, Gregg Berhalter.
Berhalter has not played since a 1-0 victory at New York on Aug. 14 because of an illness
and then a neck strain.
Berhalter just recently
returned to full training and looks ready to go, although match fitness figures
to be a problem for the veteran who turned 37 last month and has missed the
last six games.
But maybe not.
“He’s looked fine,” left
back Todd Dunivant said Wednesday after training. “Fitness-wise, Gregg has
always been kind of a physical freak when it comes to that. I wouldn’t count
him out in terms of that.
“In terms of his soccer
side, knowing the game and knowing where to be and the right positioning, he’ll
Gonzalez said he can’t wait
to be paired up again with his old defensive partner. Galaxy head coach Bruce
Arena has yet to decide on his lineup for Sunday, but Berhalter has at the very
least gotten himself into the discussion to partner Gonzalez.
“It’s looking that way,”
Gonzalez said. “Hopefully we don’t miss a beat, and hopefully it’s just like
the way it was in the beginning.
I’m very happy to have him
back, and hopefully we’ll get another shutout.”
Gonzalez admitted he has
missed Berhalter’s presence on the back line.
“Having a player out is
always bad and during these recent months we’ve had a bunch of people miss
time,” Gonzalez said. “Gregg brings a certain amount of leadership to the game
that always makes my part a little bit easier. I always loved having him back
“Our team is based on being
very strong defensively, and when we are we win those games. It will be great
to have a solid back four again.”
Berhalter admitted his
recent inactivity has been his toughest stretch since breaking his right foot
three times in a two year span earlier in his professional career.
“It’s been terrible,” he
said. “I really liked what we were building on the season. I felt good about my
condition, my old form and to miss six games toward the end of the season is
tough. You look at the big picture, and there’s still some games left in the
regular season and there’s still the playoffs.
“You’ve got to put that all
in perspective and just move forward.”
Berhalter, asked if he was
ready to start Sunday against Chivas USA, took a wait-and-see approach.
“We’ll have to look as the
week progresses,” he said. “We still have four or five days until the game, so
we’ll have to check that out.”
He did, however, know what
he can bring if he does get the call.
“Hopefully, I can help
organize a bit and keep the team in good shape. Communication is important,” he
“I’m hoping I can come back
and put myself in position to help the team.”