CARSON, Calif. – Spend a few minutes talking to Omar Gonzalez and his rosy outlook might surprise you.
You might expect a sad, possibly angry Gonzalez, and after the way his offseason loan ended, who could blame him?
On the contrary, Gonzalez’s quick smile and easy-come, easy-go attitude reveals not a hint of anger, sadness or negativity with the ACL injury that will keep him out of action for most of LA’s season.
“Everything has been pretty easy actually,” Gonzalez, who is expected to miss most of the 2012 season, told reporters on Thursday. “I’m keeping my spirits up and just thinking of it as if it happened for a reason.”
Exactly what reason may not be obvious quite yet, but Gonzalez is not delving into any philosophical discussions, nor is he doing any soul-searching.
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He’s looking at this as a chance to unplug.
“I’m taking this time to take a mental break from the sport and just taking my time and really just taking this time to appreciate actually playing,” Gonzalez said.
The reigning MLS Defender of the Year tore knee ligaments in a rather unfortunate situation, the kind that might leave some players writhing in mental and emotional pain long after the physical pain had dissipated. Gonzalez trained with FC Nürnberg after joining the German club on loan, but instead of the start of something new and exciting, it turned out to be anything but.
At the end of his first training session, Gonzalez said he felt his quadriceps muscle turn in a way it should not have. What happened next was crazy – but not for the reasons you would think.
“I really wasn’t sad about it for too long. Maybe the German guys thought I was a little bit weird because they were telling me something’s really wrong and I’m still smiling, trying to keep my spirits up,” he said. “It wasn’t as crazy as you would think it was, having an injury.”
Just as quickly as it came together, Gonzalez’s loan deal ended. He returned to the US, had surgery on his damaged knee on Jan. 13 and was slapped with a seven- to nine-month rehabilitation time. Right now, he's walking without much outward discomfort with the rehabilitation process in its early stages.
And although his early prognosis seems positive, Gonzalez is not about to hurry back for the sake of being back.
“I’m thinking more of a long-term career thing here, I’m not thinking about just this season,” he said. “If I’m back sooner than that, great. If I’m not, it’s going to be for the best. I’m not really trying to put too much pressure on myself.”
His aborted loan spell, however brief, was still thrilling as he took one giant step towards reaching his goal of playing abroad.
“It was very exciting,” he said. “I was looking forward to be on a good loan experience, and I looked forward to doing well because I felt good. I was fit and I was ready. It was just an unfortunate thing that happened.”
A career in Europe is still very much a goal of his, but that will resolve itself – one way or the other – in time.
“It’s something that I want to happen,” he said. “After this injury, I just have to take everything one day at a time and not look too much into the future and just live in the now and just worry about doing well every day and making sure I’m healthy.”
Health will come in time. A positive outlook? That never left.
Luis Bueno covers the LA Galaxy for MLSsoccer.com and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.