CARSON, Calif. – Omar Gonzalez's first match as a Designated Player was quite the triumph, scoring an important goal and contributing typically solid defensive work that left Real Salt Lake's attack starving for chances.
Plus, the LA Galaxy defender got the best of Nat Borchers, and then let him know it.
Gonzalez's 75th-minute header from Landon Donovan's corner kick and his reaction to the goal nearly overshadowed Robbie Keane's hat trick in the Galaxy's 4-2 victory Saturday night at the StubHub Center.
Gonzalez, with Borchers draped across his back, nodded Donovan's delivery from the left inside the back post, then started his celebration by tapping Borchers, as if to get his attention, and then getting in the RSL center back's face.
“There was a little bit of smack talk before the ball was hit,” Gonzalez explained afterward. “Borchers was talking some smack, but I think I got the last laugh.”
It was LA's third goal as they rallied from an early second-half deficit, and a rare strike this season from a dead-ball situation. The Galaxy had scored from just one corner kick in their first 23 MLS games.
“I've been waiting for a set piece, and I think maybe a week ago I said hopefully more would be coming, and tonight I got one, which I'm really happy about,” said Gonzalez, who hadn't scored an MLS goal but tallied from the run of play in LA's victory two weeks earlier over Juventus in the International Champions Cup. “And I think I could have got two more. I'm happy with the one, and, hopefully, I can just built off that.”
Gonzalez was strong on the defensive end, too, although he got caught pushing up while trying to “cover Leo[nardo]'s back too much and left [Joao] Plata wide open” when RSL took a 53rd-minute lead. “But that happens, and I think our team responded really well,” he said. “And Robbie responded really well.”
Robbie, of course, being LA forward and fellow DP Robbie Keane, whose hat trick fueled the victory. RSL added to their tally with the last touch of the game, courtesy of Robbie Findley, but Gonzalez said he didn't “think there's too much to be upset about that. I think I could have played it harder, but after getting kicked by [Ned] Grabavoy, my leg just wasn't working anymore.”
Keane scored LA's first two goals, but he pinpointed Gonzalez's finish as key to the victory.
“I think the second goal is always important, but I think the third goal is always important, because it gives us that little breathing space,” Keane said. “It was a good header by Omar, and then the fourth goal certainly killed the game off.”
Gonzalez did well to finish it, especially with Borchers clinging to him.
“I think Borchers likes to mark pretty tight,” Gonzalez said. “I'm just happy that Landon put in such a great ball, and I think I shouldered [Borchers] off pretty good and just flicked it to the back post.”
Gonzalez and Borchers were jawing whenever they were near each other, and things didn't quiet down after the tête-à-tête following the goal.
“We were still going at it the next two chances I got,” Gonzalez said, “and I wish I would have put those two in, too.”