Since the Los Angeles Galaxy transitioned from a team at the bottom of the standings at the end of 2008 to the MLS juggernaut they are now, there has been one player who has been an ever-present force on the field.
A first-round pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, Omar Gonzalez immediately stepped into the Galaxy's starting lineup at the start of the '09 season and became an instant fixture for the club. He has played in every game since, logging 4,022 minutes over 45 regular-season games.
That streak, however, ends Saturday. Gonzalez is suspended for the Galaxy's match against New England, having accumulated five yellow cards this season.
"It's pretty tough, you know," Gonzalez said. "Ever since I started playing with this team, I've started every single game and to not be able to get up to this one will be tough."
That Gonzalez is sitting this match out is a bit of an oddity. Gonzalez picked up his fifth yellow card on June 9 in Salt Lake. While technically he should have been suspended for the Toronto FC match, an error was made somewhere along the way and Todd Dunivant was erroneously marked down as having received the yellow card.
By the time MLS caught wind of the mistake, the Galaxy had played games at Toronto (a 0-0 draw) and against Seattle (a 3-1 Galaxy win). Gonzalez isn’t exactly complaining, though.
“I’m really just happy that I'm going to be missing this game,” Gonzalez said. “I would much rather have played in Toronto and also the first game back with Landon [Donovan] and Edson [Buddle], so I'm pretty happy I got to play in those games.”
Mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, the Revs have scored just 13 goals this season – and none in the last three games. In fact, New England have been shut out eight times this season already, including a 1-0 season-opening loss to the Galaxy on March 27. Only two teams have scored fewer goals than the punchless Revolution.
Gonzalez’s partner in central defense for the first part of the season could get a chance to start against the Revolution. Leonardo is fit and available but hasn’t played a league match since April 10 against Houston. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena could also opt for A.J. DeLaGarza, who has played one game in central defense alongside Gonzalez.
Whether it’s Leonardo or DeLaGarza or someone else who plays in his stead, Gonzalez is confident the team’s defense will be as solid as it has been.
“Whoever is going to step in for me will do a great job, and so I'll stay here at home and get ready for the next game,” he said.
Gonzalez will look to start a new streak on July 18 when the Galaxy visit D.C. United. And while he has been a fixture in the lineup since day one, Gonzalez said he does not expect to be handed his starting spot back.
“I definitely feel like I have to work for my spot," he said. "I feel like no one has one spot – maybe Landon and Edson – but I think everyone else has to work for their spot. I just have to work hard to earn my spot back.”