Galaxy Insider Player Ratings: Omar Gonzalez

Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano reviews the season for center back and MLS Cup MVP

The LA Galaxy season may be over, but LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will spend the next few weeks offering an evaluation of each member of the squad. VIEW CALENDAR

The LA Galaxy Player Ratings will begin with players who appeared in the least number of games this season starting with goalkeeper Brian Rowe and concluding with Sean Franklin who played in all 34 of the club’s regular season games. There will also be an evaluation of head coach and general manager Bruce Arena and his moves at the conclusion of the list.

We will have two to three evaluations per day and focus on what each player did well, what they need to improve on ahead of next season as well as a select thought from the player on their performance and a rating from myself out of four stars.

OMAR GONZALEZ

AGE: 24

POSITION: Center back 

APPEARANCES IN ALL OFFICIAL COMPETITIONS: GP: 21 [6 in MLS Cup Playoffs, 1 in CONCACAF Champions League], MIN: 1777, G: 2 [1 in MLS Cup Playoffs], A: 1

RESERVE LEAGUE APPEARANCES: none

GOAL: Gonzalez header ties up MLS Cup 2012

HIGHLIGHTS: When Gonzalez returned to the field for the first time since his knee surgery on July 4 against the Philadelphia Union, a loud cheer overtook The Home Depot Center, but the 24-year-old defender would give them plenty more opportunities to cheer. The 2011 MLS Defender of the Year was at finest during the MLS Cup Playoffs as shut down the powerful attacks of the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders FC along the way. But Gonzalez saved the best performance for last as he was integral in helping LA defeat the Houston Dynamo in MLS Cup 2012.  With the club down a goal in the 60th minute, Gonzalez sparked LA’s rally with a remarkable header off a diagonal cross from Juninho. From there, the comeback was on as five minutes later, a Landon Donovan penalty kick goal would put LA up for good. After giving his team the lead, Gonzalez continued his work on the defensive side as he shut down the Houston attack en route to becoming the first defender ever to be named MLS Cup MVP.

LOWLIGHTS: When Gonzalez lifted the MLS Cup in December, the defender completed an incredible journey that began with him tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his training session with German club Nurnberg in Turkey.  After the injury was diagnosed, it was projected that Gonzalez would miss seven to nine months with the injury, but he returned to full training ahead of schedule by returning to practice in June. After returning to action on July 4, Gonzalez missed three more games before returning to the field on July 21. He did not miss another MLS match for the remainder of the season.

HIS THOUGHTS: "I think that's just what I have to do, game in and game out. That's what I'm known for; it was just like any other game. I had to get out of the nerves out of it and just focus on playing a good game. The whole team did well. For me, winning MVP is great. I never thought that I would be winning it, it was pretty emotional for me because at the beginning of the year, I didn't see myself getting back to this level and I was just thinking if I was ever going to come back the same way. Today was really special for me; I know that I'm able to go even further now."  - Gonzalez after MLS Cup on Dec. 1 discussing his aerial ability and role in LA’s win.

RATING: FOUR STARS
One can make the argument that no player was more important to the Galaxy’s run to a second straight MLS Cup than Gonzalez. When Gonzalez returned to training in mid-May, a level of confidence seemed to return to the Galaxy locker room and when he came back for good in mid-July, the club was fortified by his inclusion. Although Gonzalez was consistently strong in the regular season, he was at his best when the Galaxy needed him most—during the postseason. On LA’s path to their second straight MLS Cup title, Gonzalez helped shut down the powerful offenses of Vancouver Whitecaps FC, San Jose Earthquakes, and Seattle Sounders FC before his virtuoso performance against the Houston Dynamo in the final.  Expect more of the same from Gonzalez in 2013.

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com