LA's Gonzalez feeling comfortable at US camp
Omar Gonzalez's football prognostication skills could use a bit of work.
"I think Baltimore will take it," the 6-foot-5-inch defender told MLSsoccer.com when asked to predict the outcome of the Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game.
Gonzalez, who spent three years as a member of the Maryland Terrapins before the LA Galaxy made him the third pick of the 2009 SuperDraft, missed the pick — the Steelers prevailed 31-24 — but he'll happily leave the prediction business to the likes of Chris Berman and Chesapeake the Dolphin.
The former Rookie of the Year is busy honing his skills in that other game called football, and he is currently taking part in Bob Bradley's three-week training camp. It's Gonzalez's second January camp, but the center back is ready to play a bigger role on the United States National Team in 2011 after earning his first cap against Brazil in August.
"I see myself being a continuous member on the team," he said. "Starting game, in game out. If not starting, then dressing for every game and contributing when I get the call."
The defender could find an increasing amount of time in the middle as the American back line is in a state of flux. Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit aren't getting any younger, and it's been months since Oguchi Onyewu took the field. Clarence Goodson has shown well in recent appearances, but he doesn't seem to be the long-term answer.
Gonzalez set making the Gold Cup roster as a personal goal for 2011, and he's on his way to achieving that feat.
Ironically, the person standing in his way might be a guy who's frequently standing next to him during the January camp. Tim Ream will also fight for a spot on the regional championship roster, and Bradley could have to choose between bringing the New York Red Bulls star or Gonzalez.
Then again, if the Galaxy player has his way, the duo would pair together.
"The one day Tim and I played with each other went well," Gonzalez said.
It's unlikely that they'll start together during the Gold Cup, but they present a tantalizing future. Although there are questions about Gonzalez's pace, he showed flashes of speed when thrown into the mix against Brazil in his full national team debut. It wasn't one of his best performances, but it's unfair to expect a player getting his first cap to shine against any opponent, much less the brilliant Samba Boys.
He and Ream complement each other's skill sets well, and they could develop into the next version of Onyewu and DeMerit. Gonzalez, with his height and physical imposing stature, will play the former's role while the more cerebral Ream becomes a latter-day DeMerit with better distribution skills.
Joining the proceedings at the US camp is an honor for the Dallas-born defender, but in many ways, it's simply an extension of his normal Major League Soccer experience. He's playing on his club's home turf, surrounded by his Galaxy back line mates A.J. DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin.
"I've been seeing those guys every day for the past year," he said. "It's great having them here. It definitely gives me more confidence."
Gonzalez roomed with Alejandro Bedoya last year and was paired with the Orebro midfielder again this January. Bedoya missed the first two weeks of camp while staying with his club, but he's in California now and Gonzalez is happy to have his roommate back. The camp newcomers developed a good rapport 12 months ago and it's continued as they've become further engrained into the American system.
It's a place Gonzalez hopes to be for quite some time.
Noah Davis covers the United States national team for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter at @noahedavis.