SAN FRANCISCO— Omar Gonzalez looked right at home in central defense for the U.S. National Team as he played the second 45 minutes of the Americans’ 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Tuesday in the first match of their three-game Send-Off Series before the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
During the win, the LA Galaxy center back appeared to be suffering no ill effects of the left knee injury that he suffered during the club’s 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids earlier this month. In his 45 minutes of action, he was rarely tested by the Azerbaijanis but admitted he was pleased with his showing.
“I felt really strong which is a good sign for me personally,” Gonzalez told reporters after the victory. “I wanted to have good communication with the backline and worry about things that I could control, and I thought that I did that tonight.”
Resigned to the bench in the first half as head coach Jurgen Klinsmann opted to start the match with the pairing of Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler in central defense, Gonzalez was thrown in after the break. Playing alongside his regular center back partner Besler, the Galaxy center back appeared comfortable, as his positioning was sound when defending rare attacks by the Azerbaijanis.
Gonzalez was also calm on the ball as he routinely connected with the USMNT midfield as they pushed forward in search of the go-ahead goals. The center back played his biggest role, however, in the 81st minute when he drew the attention of two Azerbaijani defenders on Brad Davis’ corner kick allowing Aron Johannsson to pass unmarked and score the final U.S. goal of the evening.
“I came on the field and did what I wanted to do. I wanted to be loud and communicate with the backline and not let them get a goal,” Gonzalez said. “I thought that I did that and that’s a step in the right direction, now we continue the camp and see where it leads.”
Finally back to full health, Gonzalez admits that he feels ready to compete for a starting spot once the action truly matters when the Americans take on Ghana on June 16 in Brazil.
“There are no problems [with my left knee], I feel 100 percent and now I’m ready to go,” said Gonzalez. “I’m in the same boat as everyone else and we’re all just helping each other along because it’s Jurgen who will have to pick the 11. We’re trying to leave everything on the field so we can make the decisions hard [on the coaching staff] and we can keep on getting better.”