The trajectory of Omar Gonzalez’s career had seemed to be on an unstoppable rise at the end of the 2011 season. The towering central defender has garnered new accolades every season of his short career. His most recent individual haul included MLS Defender of the Year, Galaxy Defender of the Year and MLS Best XI while helping to anchor the LA’s MLS Cup-winning defense that allowed the fewest goals in the league and kept 22 clean sheets in all competitions.
Gonzalez on his return to training
Things changed, however, in January 2012, when what looked like another journey forward instead became a major setback. Gonzalez was loaned to FC Nürnberg of the German Bundesliga, a move that was supposed to allow Gonzalez to train at a higher level during the MLS offseason. That all quickly went sideways when Gonzalez suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the first day of training with the German club. After returning to the U.S. and having surgery to repair his knee, it was feared that the Dallas-native would miss the entire season. In his absence, the Galaxy have shuffled through defenders, using several different starting combinations at central defense.
However, less than five months removed from his surgery, Gonzalez is well ahead of schedule and nearing a return to action. He is back on the field training with the guys and he no longer has to wear the cumbersome knee brace that he sported when he first returned to the field. With a busy summer ahead, Gonzalez’s return to the field could be much closer than anyone could have imagined at the start of the season.
We caught up with Gonzalez to discuss his rehab, return to training with the team and the Galaxy’s play so far this season…
This is the first major injury that you’ve had in your career, how difficult has it been to deal with?
“I had an injury when I was younger, just a little meniscus, but that was only like three weeks or something so this is definitely the longest injury I’ve ever had. It’s been frustrating at times, but for the most part it’s been good just to get a little break and just really work on my technique and get things right.”
What has been the hardest part about being out of the lineup and watching from the sidelines?
“I think the hardest part is just not being able to play. For my whole life I have been, for the most part, playing game-in and game-out and this is the first time I’m sitting on the sidelines watching it. It’s been frustrating because we haven’t been having that good of a year up to now, so there are times where I see plays and I get a little frustrated.”
PHOTOS: Gonzalez back in action
How have you been rehabbing and recovering since the surgery?
“I was doing physical therapy five days-a-week, Monday through Friday and then taking weekends off. Now that I’m getting closer to my return date, I’ve just been lifting everyday, coming in to get treatment and now I’m starting to practice.”
What challenges will you face when you do get back into the lineup?
“I think the toughest thing to readjust to when I get back on the field is just the speed of the game and reacting. Just getting used to the soccer plays again, moving my body the way I used to, I think that’s going to be the toughest part.
What are you anticipating most about the first time you get to be back on the field in a match?
“I’m looking forward to just playing a good game and playing the way I was last year. I just can’t wait to be out there with my teammates and having a good time.”
Where can this team improve?
“I think that two week break helped us a lot, just to recharge our batteries and forget about what’s been going on and come out here and think of it as a whole new season. You could tell from the Portland game that we picked it up a little bit and this is a tough stretch so we will see how we are mentally and go [on from there].”
How much confidence do you have that you guys can turn it around and be the team you were last season?
“I have all the confidence in the world. We have top class players and we have good guys inside the locker room. A bunch of the veteran players are starting to get on the younger guys and get everyone on the same page. It’s turning around for the best and I think that we’re going to be competing for the final.”
This article was originally published in the LA Galaxy Gameday Program. Be sure to pick up one of the new Gameday Programs, filled with exclusive content, match info and fun facts, the next time you're at The Home Depot Center for a Galaxy home match!