Omar Gonzalez shines in World Cup debut to help USMNT make the Round of 16
Pure and simple, Omar Gonzalez and the United States got the job done.
Making his first career start at the World Cup, the LA Galaxy center back was immense as he helped the United States largely shut down mighty Germany in a 1-0 defeat that helped the Americans advance to the Round of 16. By finishing second in the group, the U.S. will take on Group H winners Belgium on Tuesday in Salvador.
When word came down that the Gonzalez earned the nod over Geoff Cameron, many were surprised, but the U.S. center back was quick to repay U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s faith against Germany.
"I did my job," Gonzalez told reporters in Recife after the defeat. "I haven't been getting much luck since the very beginning of camp with my little injury, but I've always said I was going to stay ready. I got my opportunity today, and I'm just happy I could step on the field and do whatever I could to help this team go through."
From the opening whistle, Gonzalez’s positioning and aerial ability were solid as he routinely shut down probing German runs up field while negating the influence of starting strikers Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller. Gonzalez’s finest moment came early in the first half when he made a pair of back-to-back tackles in the 14th and 15th minutes respectively.
For all of Gonzalez’s success, whether Gonzalez has earned a place in Klinsmann’s starting XI for the duration still remains to be seen according to the U.S. boss.
"Everyone is so important in our group and we wanted to give Cam a break, and we don't kind of have the luxury to say that all the players can come and go every four days in games and be always on the highest level," Klinsmann said. "We were sure now with Omar coming in he was ready. He worked so hard the five, six weeks we had camp. And he was ready for it, and he showed that on the field."
It wasn’t just his coaches and teammates in Brazil who were keeping a keen eye on Gonzalez’s performance as his Galaxy teammate Landon Donovan was impressed by the center back’s showing and backed him for a start against Belgium next week.
“I thought Omar was terrific today. We’ve all been waiting anxiously to see Omar get a chance to play,” Donovan told LAGalaxy.com. “He played few minutes against Portugal, but I know he was really excited for the opportunity to play today. I think he did really well, he acquitted himself really well, he helped the team, and hopefully he gets another start in the round of 16.”