LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review: Omar Gonzalez
Now that the 2013 season is over, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will look back on the season for every player who was on the club’s roster at some point during the season.
The LA Galaxy Insider Year in Review will begin with players who made the least number of appearances for the club in all official competitions over the course of the year, starting with Brian Perk and Bryan Gaul, who did not make any appearances for the first team this year, and concluding with midfielder Marcelo Sarvas who played in a team-best 42 games for LA this year. 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 one or two evaluations per day and focus on what each player did well and what challenges they faced in 2013 as well as a select thought from the player on their performance and an overall assessment of their season from myself.
APPEARANCES IN ALL OFFICIAL COMPETITIONS FOR THE GALAXY: GP: 34 (27 in MLS Regular Season, five in CONCACAF Champions League and two in MLS Cup Playoffs); GS: 34 (27 in MLS Regular Season, five in CONCACAF Champions League and two in MLS Cup Playoffs); G: 2 (one in MLS Regular Season and one in CONCACAF Champions League); A: 2 (All in MLS Regular Season)
APPERANCES IN GUINNESS INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONS CUP: GP: 2; G: 1
HIGHLIGHTS: Omar Gonzalez once again proved his worth as one of the league’s most talented center backs in 2013. He was a regular in central defense for the Galaxy, starting all 34 of his appearances this season while scoring twice and helping LA keep 10 clean sheets in those matches. The 25-year-old was also a big force in the Guinness International Champions Cup as he scored a brilliant goal in the Galaxy’s 3-1 victory over Italian giants Juventus at Dodger Stadium. Although Gonzalez was at his best down the stretch run for LA, as they went 5-2-5 to close out the regular season and keeping five clean sheets, his best singular performance came at the start of the year in LA’s CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal second leg defeat to C.F. Monterrey. In front of a hostile crowd at the Estadio Tecnológico in Mexico, Gonzalez was dominant, snuffing out multiple Monterrey attacks and nearly scoring himself in the Galaxy’s 1-0 loss. During the year, Gonzalez also emerged as a regular contributor on the U.S. National Team as he appeared in 14 games for the U.S., including starts in eight of the 10 World Cup Qualifiers. Gonzalez was rewarded for his stellar season by being named the Galaxy’s Defender of the Year while also earning his third career MLS Best XI selection and, perhaps most importantly, earning a new contract that has seen him become a Designated Player for the club.
CHALLENGES: Omar Gonzalez may have deservedly taken home many honors in 2013, but his form was up and down at times this season. In particular, Gonzalez and the rest of the Galaxy struggled on set pieces, both offensively and defensively. Defensive set pieces proved to be the Galaxy’s Achilles heel in 2013 as LA conceded 17 times on dead ball opportunities—15 in MLS games and two in the CONCACAF Champions League. At times, Gonzalez and the rest of LA’s defenders were caught out of position on set pieces leading to costly goals like Real Salt Lake's Chris Schuler’s extra time strike that eliminated the Galaxy from the Western Conference Semifinals. At the other end of the field, unlike in past seasons, Gonzalez was unable to get free and become the aerial threat that he has long been known to be. LA’s primary target on all set pieces, Gonzalez often found himself brutalized and bracketed in the penalty area as opponents looked for any way to prevent him from using his aerial ability. This was clearly evident during LA’s postseason defeat to Real Salt Lake as the center back found himself blanketed by RSL’s defenders—primarily Chris Schuler—as he was unable to get on the end of any of his team’s numerous set piece opportunities.
HIS THOUGHTS: “It was one of the longest [years] of my career as I was now a member of the national team and going from the national team to switching gears to be with my club team. For next year, that’s something that I have to get used to. For the Galaxy, we were too inconsistent on set pieces and that’s something that we have to get right. There were some games that I thought that I could have done better, but overall, it’s a team sport and that’s something that we have to improve as a team.”
OVERVIEW: Omar Gonzalez is the fulcrum for the Galaxy defense and will be so for the foreseeable future after signing a Designated Player contract in August. After yet another strong season, the sky is seemingly the limit for Gonzalez who will face perhaps the most important year of his professional career in 2014 as he not only tries to lead the Galaxy to their fifth MLS Cup trophy and advance in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League, but also must balance national team commitments as he is expected to be included in the U.S. roster at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Gonzalez’s ability to achieve success at the club and international level will determine just how his year plays out and likely go a considerable distance as he looks to further his career.
POLL: How would you rate Omar Gonzalez’s 2013 season?
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com